Review: The Change Up (2011)

The body-swap comedy has become somewhat a staple in Hollywoodland of late. While some films find intriguing and interesting ways of exploring the subject, for example Freaky Friday and 17 Again, others seem to struggle from the offset, falling into an unoriginal heap of bad jokes, one dimensional characters and despair. The Change Up, unsurprisingly written by the duo responsible for The Hangover – have you seen the posters?! – falls into the latter pile.

Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) are two guys with entirely different lifestyles. Dave, a married, middle-aged lawyer, yearns for the missed experimental days of his youth, while Mitch, a wild bachelor, is starting to grow tired of his partying ways. After a night of heavy drinking, Dave and Mitch’s lives are turned upside down when they wake up in each others bodies. Despite their new leases of life, they soon discover that the grass isn’t always as green as it appears.

Contrived, and full of vulgar, unfunny set ups and quips about sex and excretion, The Change Up is an overlong, unoriginal and inconsistently paced would-be-comedy that’s built entirely on conventions and tropes that are clearly years past their sell-by date.

What’s even more disappointing is that whenever screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have the opportunity to explore one of the more serious, meta-narratives simmering beneath the lowbrow surface, they instead opt to fall deeper into traditions. They make no effort to push the characters more interesting problems, such as Dave’s troubled marriage, or Mitch’s questionable bond with his father, to the fore. This, despite hope being buried underneath, makes the entire set-up and “typical” representation of a suburban family completely unrealistic.

Moderately successful comedy director David Dobkin approaches the material in the worst possible way. He laps up the typical sensibilities of the genre and attempts to skim over the cracks with flashy lighting, camera tricks, and a loud, obtrusive pop soundtrack. Sadly though, the cracks are far too obvious to be merely skimmed over.

Every character, bar perhaps Dave’s wife Jamie – who has at least fairly successfully had depth added to her – is written to be one-dimensional, devoid of any real character or emotion. Despite this, the cast: Bateman, Reynolds, Olivia Wilde and Mann herself, deliver performances to the best of their ability, and as best as the poorly written script allows, but they all feel too forced and apathetic to take the necessary amount of strain off the script and direction.

The Change Up is nothing more than a cheap gimmick that completely wastes the talents of four actors and shows that body-swap comedies’ honeymoon period is well and truly over.

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