Trading places but staying vulgar
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Aug 05, 2011
"Freaky Friday" meets "The Hangover" in "The Change-Up," a raunchy ode to guy-love in which Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds struggle valiantly to transcend the movie they're in. Sometimes they do - especially Reynolds, who after the disastrous "Green Lantern" here displays the same rom-com chops that made him so yummy in "The Proposal" a couple of years ago. As an arrested adolescent and incorrigible ladies' man named Mitch, Reynolds has most of the funniest lines in "The Change-Up," many of them vulgarities aimed at infants who smile beatifically at the verbal abuse. When another youngster asks Mitch if he'll come to her dance recital, he tells her the only dance performances he attends "involve a big, shiny pole and a broken woman with daddy issues."
Then Reynolds makes a lower-lip-out frowny face, which exemplifies why he's at his best when he can keep it light and just riff. Bateman doesn't get to have nearly as much fun as Mitch's straight-laced bestie Dave, a type-A lawyer with a beautiful wife (Leslie Mann) and three kids. For the most part, he's called on to turn on his signature nervous grimace while being asked, say, to have an intimate encounter with a buxom woman's nether regions on the set of a porn flick, or have another intimate encounter with a woman who's nine months pregnant.
Those are but two of the long series of sex- and scatology-oriented set pieces that comprise "The Change-Up," wherein Mitch and Dave switch bodies early on and must impersonate each other until they can switch back. Like "Horrible Bosses," "Bad Teacher" and "The Hangover Part II," this hard-R comedy brazenly seeks out the most rancid, vulgar, graphic form of lowbrow humor (not surprisingly, the script was written by "Hangover" veterans Jon Lucas and Scott Moore). But give "The Change-Up" credit for making its aesthetic known early on, when Dave blearily becomes the target of projectile baby poop aimed not just at his face but into his mouth.
Although Olivia Wilde co-stars as Dave's comely legal assistant, this is primarily a vehicle for the same veiled homoerotic impulses that drive the bromantic-comedy genre (witness the recurring motif of Mitch giving Dave instructions in the care and grooming of his nether-regions). But director David Dobkin ("Wedding Crashers") seems not to have encouraged Bateman and Reynolds to try harder to inhabit each other's mannerisms and personae; once they switch, they don't really change, which feels like a lost opportunity for actors with their comic chops. As it is, the audience must content itself with baby poop, naughty words and the female anatomy at its pneumatic extreme, while Bateman and Reynolds's search for transcendence continues.
Contains pervasive strong crude sexual content and profanity, some graphic nudity and drug use.