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.
Though each may seem to be living different versions of a male ideal, both are dissatisfied and empty. Dave’s career ascent has come at the expense of intimacy with his wife and kids. Mitch isn’t taken seriously by anyone, most importantly his patient and gracious father (Oscar-winner Alan Arkin, Sunshine Cleaning).
Consequently, both are filled with angst and looking for a change. That’s exactly what they get when, after a night of bar-hopping, they drunkenly urinate into a park’s public fountain as they openly wish to have each other’s lives. By the next morning, the sculpted goddess of the fountain has granted them their request: Dave’s soul is now in Mitch’s body, and vice versa. Wild antics ensue as Mitch must complete Dave’s business deal that will elevate him to partner, and Dave must manage the rather base elements of Mitch’s life (mostly as collateral to insure that Mitch doesn’t sabotage his job and family).
Events unfold in predictable fashion. At first they each make a mess of the other’s lives (with more dire consequences for Dave’s), but as time goes on they begin to see the flaws of their own character. Dave realizes how important it is to slow down, enjoy life, and prioritize those you love, while Mitch feels the pride of work, earning something, and sacrificing for family. One learns to loosen up as the other learns to grow up. As wisdom goes, it’s pretty obvious.
Director David Dobkin (Fred Claus) employs the Judd Apatow bromance formula that uses vulgar means to eventually make a very old-fashioned point about family values (even while still giving an approving wink to the debauchery of singlehood). To Dobkin’s credit, these values are clearly heartfelt.
But allowing the heroes to have their cake and eat it too over the course of a week also undercuts that sincerity. This conflict is also indicative of how the two female leads are treated. The worth and feelings of Dave’s wife Jaime (Leslie Mann, Funny People) and Mitch’s prospect Sabrina (Olivia Wilde, Cowboys & Aliens) are handled with sensitivity and respect, but not before they’ve also been ogled as sexual eye candy on multiple occasions (both clothed and unclothed, and in intimate sexual situations).
All in all, we’re left with a film that betrays its own values by indulging temptation throughout before giving the perpetrators a contrived pass at the end, where consequences are ultimately only a threat but never have to be paid. Yes, it’s a fantasy. But it’s an empty one.
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Marijuana is smoked in several scenes. One character is high on a couple of occasions. Alcohol is consumed in several scenes, from beer to liquor shots. Drunkenness is also depicted.
- Language/Profanity: All forms of profanity are used, and used regularly throughout. Multiple variations on the f-word, s-word, and all others.The Lord’s name is taken in vain on several occasions.Profanities, including the f-word, are said in front of children.Sexually vulgar words and phrases are used (describing genitalia, sex acts, etc.). Sexually explicit conversations and descriptions occur on multiple occasions.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: A bare-breasted woman breast-feeds a baby.On the set of a porno shoot, breasts are exposed and kissed and sexual acts are simulated. A man fondles himself inside of his pants. A man pleasures himself in a bathroom as he watches porn clips on an iPhone (the porn clips are seen). A sex scene with a nude pregnant woman who’s nearly full-term. A woman disrobes from her nightgown; breasts are seen, then her full backside. A fully naked man covers his genitals by holding them in his hand.
- Violence: A man encourages a girl to fight back with a girl who’s bullying her. She does and is affirmed for it.
Other: Fecal humor occurs; a baby shoots excrement from his bottom onto a man’s face and into his mouth. Men urniate into public fountains, first at a park and then later in a mall.
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