It’s been a pretty decent year for Jason Bateman. A very good year, considering the man has been continually in the acting game since 1981 for crying out loud. After having finally found success with the cancelled but brilliant Arrested Development, he’s essentially steered clear of TV. And after having not being in any films since 2009, it’s evident now that the man has stayed busy. This weekend now sees the release of his fourth film this year, The Change-Up, after having also headlined or was featured in Paul, Horrible Bosses, and The Switch.
Since the release of director David Dobkin’s first film (Clay Pigeons) his resume has been far more hit than miss. While he may have last issued us the atrocious Fred Claus, he also managed to squeeze in two very successful Hollywood films you may have heard of, Shanghai Knights and a little something called Wedding Crashers. Knights was a great sequel and one of Jackie Chan’s last fun American productions and we all know that Crashers is one of the biggest R-rated comedies of all time. Lightning could strike twice here for more than just Dobkin as The Change-Up happens to come from the sick and twisted minds of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the duo behind the first Hangover.
In The Change-Up we meet best friends Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave Lockwood (Bateman). They’ve been friends since they were 3-years-old(?). Dave has worked his ass off to get through college, marry the love of his life Jamie (Leslie Mann), and has a big house full of kids including a new set of fraternal twins and Cara (Sydney Rouviere). Meanwhile, Mitch flunked out of college to pursue an acting career which means he just wants to work one week a year spending the rest of his time getting high and scoring lots of women.
Dave’s life is of course very busy between work and home but manages to squeeze in one night to hit the bar with Mitch to watch a Marlins/Braves game. After Mitch drunkenly brags about all of his one night stands and various flings, Dave admits to how jealous he is and wishes he could so much as take a peaceful dump or simply learn how to rollerblade. After taking a piss in a fountain and simultaneously wishing for each others lives, a rolling black out occurs and the next morning they wake to find each other having swapped bodies. Wackiness ensues featuring all the requisite misadventures even if they try to explain the situation to Jamie who thinks the two are just up to a new level of dork-shenanigans.
Yup, it’s Freaky Friday for the frat-house crowds. From the opening scene featuring projectile diarrhea, pregnant flings, a starring role in a “lorno,” possibly getting to bang your hot co-worker, to a wife who needs to take it easy on the Thai food, for a good hour the film manages to raise the gross-out stakes. There’s also a kitchen scene that makes me wonder whether it’s the writers or the director who are huge fans of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Before they switch bodies, Reynolds is aping his Van Wilder role but then gets to play worried husband while Bateman gets to revel in playing the asshole after the switch, something he’s not typically known for but appears surprisingly good at.
Lessons are learned and montages show Dave and Mitch teaching each other how to be each other and when the film gets to the character side of the film things tend to slow down a bit. Leslie Mann gets to shine in what feels like a filler piece to get her back in tune for the now filming tentatively titled Judd Apatow Knocked Up spin-off, This Is 40. And the supporting cast seems to be having fun too, even if it mostly consists of Olivia Wilde playing Dave’s hot co-worker who happens to love baseball, tattoos, and also, of course, has a heart of gold.
Dobkin is still in need of figuring out how to successfully blend his raunch and schmaltz. It was the one thing that didn’t quite work in Wedding Crashers and it rears its head again here. Thankfully the entire cast is so likeable that it winds up working far better than it should even if you’ve seen the film so many times before. Some of my favorites of the genre include Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son, Face/Off, and yes, even the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis Freaky Friday.
So if you’re looking for some huge guilty laughs look no further. The jokes fly fast and furious even if some of them you may not feel good about laughing at in the morning. And while I may have given Friends with Benefits more credit than it really deserves, here we find the summer’s comedies still on track, even if sometimes The Change-Up aims too low.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures