No Hope for This R-Rated Change-Up
- Friday, August 05, 2011
DVD Release Date: November 8, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: August 5, 2011
Rating: R (for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use)
Run Time: 101 min.
Director: David Dobkin
Cast: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin
EDITOR’S NOTE: This review contains discussion of mature subject matter. Parents, please be advised before allowing children to read.
It’s hard to imagine the poster and advertisements for The Change-Up doing a better job of letting you know what you’re walking into. By boldly brandishing the credits “From the Director of Wedding Crashers and the Writers of The Hangover,” they don’t just tell you that it’s produced by the people behind two of the most successful comedies of the past several years, but also two of the most obscene. Not only is this not for kids, it’s not even for all adults.
The title itself serves as an effective descriptor as well, and on three levels: in concept, subgenre, and the two male leads. In concept, The Change-Up is another body swap movie. In subgenre, it takes the body-swap premise out of its traditional PG-rated Freaky Friday confines and plants it squarely into hard-R territory (while also changing the nature of the switch from the usual “young/old reversal” to peer-to-peer).
As for the leads, they briefly start out in the kinds of comedic roles we’ve come to expect from each—Ryan Reynolds as irresponsible Ladies' Man; Jason Bateman as responsible Every Man—before being allowed to play against type for the bulk of the story.
All of these elements help provide a fresh twist on an overdone high concept, but with its raunchy onslaught and stale narrative conventions it remains as desperate and predictable as most of its predecessors, just more offensively so.
The Change-Up is a metaphysical rehash of “The Prince and the Pauper” template (with a much more crude sensibility) in which two people swap lives and learn a lot about themselves while walking in the other’s shoes. The “grass isn’t always greener” lessons, while earnestly conveyed, remain perfunctory conclusions in what is primarily an exercise in excessive profanity, more-than-occasional nudity, plenty of sexually-explicit dialogue, and a fair amount of scatological gross-outs.
It’s in these elements where most of the creative energies are spent, as the writers, director and cast strive to invent new ways to flirt with male fantasies (both verbally and literally), launch excrement from its source, and pair-up the f-word with other nouns and adjectives in ways you may have never even imagined before.
Dave Lockwood and Mitch Planko are lifelong best friends, but their lives have gone in opposite directions. As Dave (Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses) has gone through law school, settled down with a wife and kids and is on the verge of making partner at his firm, buddy Mitch (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern) has remained a weed-smoking foul-mouthed lothario who lacks focus or maturity as he supports his extended adolescence through light-porn acting gigs.
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