Kernel Rating (out of 5):
Length: 112 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Age Appropriate for: 16+. Basically it’s all cursing and nudity: Topless women, some male characters’ implied nudity and suggested sex scenes, such as one at the set of a pornographic film and another involving an incredibly pregnant woman. It’s all very childish (like a truly nasty scene involving baby poop and someone’s mouth), but if your teen has seen anything post-“American Pie,” this isn’t much of a surprise.
After the awful of ‘Green Lantern,’ Ryan Reynolds can’t catch a break in ‘The Change-Up,’ which stars him as a man-boy who won’t grow up until he’s trapped in another man’s body. It’s kind of like the opposite of ‘Hook’ — both because ‘Hook’ was about Peter Pan and because that flick was actually good.
By Roxana Hadadi
Last week, I saw this disappointing movie called “Cowboys & Aliens,” which featured actress Olivia Wilde in a supporting role as an all-knowing otherworldly beauty who couldn’t speak in anything but a monotone. This week, I saw this equally disappointing movie called “The Change-Up,” which also featured actress Olivia Wilde in a supporting role, this time as an aggressive, sex-craving vixen who covets her boss, gets impulsive tattoos and talks ad nauseam about how she just wants to work all day and play all night … also in monotone! Can you feel my wrath?
“The Change-Up” will do that to you. Ryan Reynolds, who starred in this summer’s biggest superhero failure, “Green Lantern,” does his snide, smooth-talking rogue thing as a man-boy who has cut himself off from his father but craves attention and affection from others, including countless women. Jason Bateman, who was so wonderfully dry and self-possessed in one of this summer’s best comedies, “Horrible Bosses,” hits auto-pilot here, going along with the same old gags about masturbation and poop. Within the first five minutes of the film, his character’s baby projectile-defecates into his mouth. I heard the woman next to me at the press screening choke back her popcorn, it’s that disgusting.
Could a movie go further downhill after an opening scene that includes such unnecessary nastiness? Basically, yeah — but for the most part “The Change-Up” hits a plateau and coasts along. Similar to the diarrhea-meets-adultery themes of this spring’s “Hall Pass,” “The Change-Up” sprinkles in those jokes but also jarringly tries transitioning into more heavy material, like familial abandonment and the meaning of loyalty in marriage. Most movies where characters switch bodies — like the wholesome Disney mainstay “Freaky Friday” — have their characters learn something important about themselves while trapped in someone else. Take that two-part season four episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the one where Faith comes back with a magical device the Mayor left her and she switches bodies with Buffy, and viewers all recognize Faith-as-Buffy because she crimps her hair, something only Buffy does when feeling rebellious or mischievous: The episode ended with Faith realizing her own inner resentment and self-hate, something she could only truly understand when understanding how others really viewed her. (Obviously I am a walking crevasse of teen TV show analysis; call me if you need someone to round out your trivia team.)
Anyway, anything new to that body-switch equation would be good, you know? But “The Change-Up” doesn’t give us that. What you see, unfortunately, is what you get, even though what you see is Jason Bateman pretending to be Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Reynolds pretending to be Jason Bateman. Before they urinate together in a fountain with magical powers (essentially the same plot device used in “When in Rome”), best friends Mitch (Reynolds) and Dave (Bateman) are both on the cusp of something new. After years of struggling to make it as an actor, Mitch is grateful to have any work at all, even if it’s in a “lorno,” or “light porno”; similarly eager is Dave, who will make partner at his law firm if he cements down an upcoming company merger. Sure, Mitch yearns for a relationship commitment even as he revels in numerous one-night stands, and yes, Dave loves his family even though he sometimes neglects them for his obsession with work, but ultimately they’re pretty happy guys. Right?
Of course not! Because “The Change-Up” is unsurprising in basically every way possible, once Mitch and Dave switch bodies and the initial shock wears off, a funny thing happens on the way to them re-finding that silly fountain: They think this is actually kind of great. Dave, in Mitch’s body, enjoys the time to himself and the ability to flirt with co-worker Sabrina (Wilde), who very clearly adores Dave’s intellect but would never go for him because he’s married. As Mitch, though, Dave is free to do whatever he wants. Similarly uninhibited is Mitch-as-Dave, who takes the opportunity to step up: to try and finish Dave’s upcoming merger, fix his strained relationship with wife Jamie (Leslie Mann) and prove he can be more than just an immature man-skank. However will this turn out?
If director David Dobkin, who also directed “Wedding Crashers,” and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who penned “The Hangover,” were less obvious about every single thing, maybe “The Change-Up” could have been frothy and fun, a welcome mature twist on a narrative we’ve previously seen done through Disney’s by-the-book ways. But the film’s details are what sink it: The aforementioned poop-in-the-mouth scene to signify Dave’s frustration; Sabrina’s long speech about being powerful and sexual and sticking to her principles, which comes off so preachy and decidedly unattractive; Jamie’s random nervous breakdown about her relationship with Dave, even though no problems had been hinted at before; Mitch’s rendezvous with a woman so pregnant you can clearly see the baby kicking through her stomach. I mean, really? Dobkin, Lucas and Moore don’t play it straight but don’t play it completely insane, either, so “The Change-Up” remains in this unfortunate middle ground, where the moral lessons are dealt hand-in-hand with profane potty humor — and neither works.
There are some laughs: Bateman really goes big when playing Mitch-as-Dave, traipsing around naked and acting like a frat bro at a serious business meeting, and Reynolds shines most when portraying the shy Dave on the set of that “lorno” film where Mitch is supposed to be the star. It’s Reynolds’s incredibly uncomfortable, slightly ashamed look that clinches the scene, but you’ll probably be sporting the same unfortunate daze when walking out of “The Change-Up.”