The first scene of “The Change-Up” is a good indication of the tenor of the movie. Dave, played by Jason Bateman (“The Switch”), wakes to the sound of his crying twin babies. While Dave changes their diapers, these babies wreak havoc on their bedroom, spraying baby powder on Dave’s face and knocking over diaper boxes. Then, in the midst of changing the second twin, Dave leans over to pick up a diaper and his baby projectile-poops into his open mouth.
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In a way, it’s a kind gesture on the part of the filmmakers; they’re letting the audience know what’s coming. The film defecates into the mouth of the audience for two hours.
“The Change-Up,” directed by David Dobkin (“Fred Claus”), follows the classic body-switching comedy formula. Bateman plays an overachieving lawyer with three kids and a beautiful wife (Leslie Mann, “Funny People”), living the American middle-class dream. Best friend Mitch, played by Ryan Reynolds (“Green Lantern”), is a playboy man-child — a mostly unemployed actor in commercials and soft-core pornography. After a night of drinking, the two get to talking about their lives, each expressing envy at the other’s situation. Then, while peeing into a fountain, the two say in unison “I wish I had your life,” magically transporting their souls into each other’s body.
All sorts of high jinks ensue, the details of which are trivial and would be even more dull, a seemingly impossible feat, in print than on the screen. Eventually they each discover that (spoiler alert!) maybe their lives aren’t so bad after all, and maybe you can learn something from spending a little time in another’s shoes.
This is, ostensibly, the premise and theme of every body-switching film, but the movie drags on and on, lasting an interminable 112 minutes. This is about 109 more minutes than the movie needs to convey its “story” and tell all of its jokes, the grand majority of which are scatological, racist or penile in nature while others involve violence toward or by infants and are … not funny.
“The Change-Up,” instead of telling a story, seems content to stack up an increasingly repetitive series of convoluted plot complications, interspersed with lifeless, pointless montages. And the film is largely just a collection of clichés: Dave is working on a merger at his law firm that he hopes will make him partner; Dave and Mitch have been “best buds” since the third grade; slacker Mitch has a wealthy, disappointed dad (Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”) and every sophomoric joke about nut sacks and pubes sounds like something from a bad Judd Apatow movie.
Even the roles they play have become clichés for these actors: Bateman, the earnest, sensible, hapless good guy; Reynolds, the handsome asshole; Mann, the bitchy, volatile, neglected wife. But to even call them characters is a misnomer. These are not individuals with consistent personalities, with whom we can sympathize, just things to throw feces at and hear vulgarity from.
If there’s one thing that can be said about this movie, it’s that it’s consistent in its tone. Every pathetic attempt at pathos or real feeling is undercut by another juvenile, vulgar, derivative joke and only serves to further alienate its audience.
How this movie was ever made is a mystery. We can only assume that every person involved switched bodies with a seventh grade boy, because that is the only explanation for the immaturity, crudeness and complete lack of wit or insight evident in this abhorrent film.