MOVIE REVIEW: The Change-Up
THE CHANGE-UP-- 3 STARS
We all have that friend we're embarrassed of. You know, the Peter Pan friend who never grew up and still talks about college. Yet, in a roundabout way, we envy them at the same time. All of us know that one immature slacker who doesn't keep around all of the relationships, responsibilities, and stresses that us grown-up people do. They are your token "single friend" and their existence is free of gender bias. They never finish anything, are textbook commitment-phobes, and live a seemingly care-free life. All the while, despite being way more successful than them, we're jealous of their simplicity and freedom.
In The Change-Up, Ryan Reynolds's Mitch is that friend for Jason Bateman's Dave. Mitch is a single moper, who still smokes pot and pines for an acting career and the acceptance of his father (Alan Arkin). Dave is the one who grew up. He's a successful lawyer on the brink of earning partner status while raising infant twins and a school-age daughter. Married to his college sweetheart, Jamie (Leslie Mann), his life oozes responsibility and difficulty around every corner. Mitch's biggest difficulty is who to bang next.
That all changes (as you've seen in the inescapable trailer) when they make a wish after peeing together in an Atlanta park fountain to have each other's lives. Through Hollywood's supernatural twinkling role-switch plot device, Mitch wakes up as Dave and vice versa. Mitch (as Dave) has to somehow juggle being a husband, father, and career man with a tie and a profanity filter, while Dave (as Mitch) gets to live a little and get away from stress. As with any body-switch movie in Hollywood history (great list on Rotten Tomatoes, by the way), this a recipe for equal parts internal disaster and self-discovery.
Predictable as it is (you know the usual self-respect, mistaken identity, and odd behavior gags are coming), The Change-Up is still really funny because it balances the usual fun of body-switch comedies with hilariously vulgar R-rated comedy. It's not too often that the gags out-trump the cliches. Just when you thought a typical body-switch gag like changing sexual partners was funny, a crude joke of toilet humor or nudity comes along and tops it with shock value.
The Change-Up is right there with Bad Teacher and Bridesmaids for over-the-top R-rated comedy and jaw-dropping laughs this summer. As with any body-switch movie (take Face/Off, for example, with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta), what has to work for the film to be successful and convincing is the talent of the performers to switch their behaviors and acting while still looking the same on the outside. Reynolds and Bateman do a brilliant job of just that. Their mutual montage scenes of coaching each other up on each other's rules and routines are a treat. Reynolds sells his switch from cocky slacker to voice of reason, but it's Bateman's move from uptight square to foul-mouth that brings the biggest fun. You can tell they're having fun and you just might too.
LESSON #1: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR-- Maybe Mitch and Dave should stick to what they're good at, respectively. While Mitch was just trying to be nice by envying the success and stability of Dave's life, he got more than he bargained for by the switch and was obviously outmatched. It's OK to be a good friend and help out a buddy, but know your strengths and weaknesses and stick to them.
LESSON #2: DON'T BE EMBARRASSED BY YOUR FRIENDS-- Dave lets his workaholic lifestyle and success get to his head a little. He and Mitch are best friends despite their differences, but Dave's embarrassed of his crudeness around his cultured friends. Little does Dave know until they switch, that there's more going on than that. Dave needs to remember that it's Mitch's personality that makes him that best friend. Don't be embarrassed or try to change the guy.
LESSON #3: DON'T JUDGE A PERSON UNTIL YOU WALK A MILE IN THEIR SHOES-- This is the life lesson, anecdote, and allegory that every character-switch movie in Hollywood teaches and it's true. A lot of us will watch people or friends in action at life or a career, whether it's on TV or in our own lives, and say "I can do that" or "I could do that better" (right, armchair quarterbacks?) Yes and no, tough guy. What you see is always harder than it looks, so don't judge things in that way. Try doing what you see at a successful level before you come out and say you're better than them.