Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: The Change-Up (2011) TH

When the frowned on catches some smiles

On a drunken night two polar opposite buds--after saying they want each others' lives--switch bodies but not minds when accidentally swearing an oath in front of a statue while crossing urine streams into its fountain. Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) lives the complete bachelor life with no responsibilities beyond making a paycheck as a part time actor, and Dave (Jason Bateman) has his hands full as a lawyer with three kids and a wife. The fountain is moved and in the meantime they have to live one anothers' lives till it can be found. Easy said, easy done. Yeah, right.

The premise sounds awfully familiar, though this is a movie that skips out on the cleverness and goes more towards the profane by playing on taboos and shock value for a share of the way. Some of the jokes feel like they are too in your face to the point of stepping over their punch and the replay value is somewhat diminished in that they can only be looked at head-on and from a point-blank angle. Though one thing you can count on is it literally doesn't let up with what it shows or says, with kids included, which makes the experience extremely over-the-top in a titillating, one-off kind of way. Babies are more misused than females born in China, and then adults don't hold back in what they say with yougins in presence, cursing and urination included. That unabashed outlook is gonna cause a share of gasping and head-shakes, not to mention I-can't-believe-they-did-that laughter all at the same time. It's a movie that you gotta forget all social stigmas and just let loose to the ludicrousness, otherwise this is gonna be a tough watch and not recommended. The main culprit is the Mitch role, and then the raunchiness is continued when that persona has to be maintained when Bateman switches to Reynolds. He tries to keep up with the bachelor's extracurricular activities, including meeting his sex-crazed partners and showing up to the set of his "acting" job, which turns out to be something a little more risque than the reserved dad and businessman agreed to.

The whole ride isn't a roller coaster of do-whatever-it-wants as it eventually turns into a safer formula that takes a lighter stroll for the latter portion where there is room for character learning and growth and things are more content. The original Dave character wants to make partner in the law firm he's worked so hard to get to, but at the same time doesn't have time for his wife. Jamie (Leslie Mann) has some funny and also serious scenes from uncertainty setting in with her "new" husband but that's not to say there weren't issues beforehand. The original Mitch character is always running away from finishing anything that he starts and uses the opportunity to hopefully rectify himself if that's even possible. Olivia Wilde shows with interest on both fronts as Sabrina: a pretty face that works in the law firm. Dave wanted her before the switch, and Mitch being Dave, being his sneaky perverted self, says they should go out and she turns out to be much different than the conservative lady she appears in the office.

"The Change-Up" plays on the absurd while others around them play it straight and act confused. Reynolds and Bateman definitely have their moments but don't always transition their reverse rolls back and forth smoothly as it feels like they can't always shake their stage names. This plays out the fantasy of how it would be if you did things differently in your earlier years and shows that it might not be too late to do so from a changed perspective. Yeah, the message was delivered a little fluffy and easily but, then again, this is simple entertainment that uses taboos to get its audience loosened up from the day-to-day of rules and what we're supposed to do. The movie rides a fine line between potentially getting someone on the complete defensive, or on the other side letting loose and going with the insane flow. It can be nice to see them--not yourself, mind you--break the rules for basic escapism even if that diversion wasn't without its over-daring snags that make it more closer to a minor comedy than an instant classic.

Director: David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights, Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin
Website: IMDB