The Change-Up
This age-old formula of screwing up each other’s existence then ‘discovering’ the missing elements of one’s personality is a well-trodden and patronising path.


4 June 2012

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Plot summary

Following a drunken night out together, Mitch and Dave’s worlds are turned upside down when they wake up in each other’s bodies and proceed to freak out.

From the beginning projectile poop moment to the end urinating ‘solution’, The Change-Up has got Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin’s goofy, juvenile stamp all over it, complete with two watchable actors of the moment at the helm, Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, trying to deal with life after hitting adulthood.

Top lawyer Dave Lockwood (Bateman) has it all: great job, great wife (Leslie Mann), great kids and a great house, but still feels like he’s missed out. His best mate from childhood, Mitch Planko (Reynolds), has the carefree, playboy lifestyle he secretly craves a piece of, without all the adult worries and responsibilities, but with other headaches to contend with. After one boozy night out and relieving themselves in the local fountain, the two find themselves switched in each other’s bodies after wishing them could have each other’s life. The trouble is, once they get what they wish for, can they ever go back?

Body-swapping films are aplenty, from Vice Versa to Big to Freaky Friday, and this age-old formula of screwing up each other’s existence in the inhabited body then ‘discovering’ the missing elements of one’s personality is a well-trodden and patronising path. Dobkin’s film is no different, a lot cruder and definitely aimed at the adult market, but over contrived to a tee in a furnished, affluent setting that Nancy Meyers would be proud of. With its bodily functions relied on to grab the majority laughs, the main joke is on Bateman and Reynolds for considering to appear in such an infantile copycat version.

That said Bateman lets loose in this, and is perhaps the best factor of the whole affair, shaking off his deadpan stance and having some liberated, verbal – if profane – fun, playing Dave in Mitch’s body. Reynolds once more plays on the fact that his toned physique is better known than a lot of his previous work in Hollywood as the pretty boy with a big heart that the on/off-screen female population can swoon over. He does cheekily send up Mitch to a degree, reminding us not to take things too seriously.

However, the gags spell déjà vu and lack any unique imagination, and the ending is the same old, same old happy one – the question is, what’s on the guys’ journey to reaching it? Indeed, there are enough set-pieces to keep you mildly entertained – even if the punch lines can be seen a mile off. Perhaps the most disturbing thing that sets you off on an uneven footing is the animatronics babies used at the very start.

This film does employ a lot of shock tactics to trigger the required revulsion, without fair warning at times. It’s very much like a body-swapping Hall Pass with hormonally-charged/debilitated, marriage-fearing grown men wanting that one last fling at adolescence, as getting hitched is the same as giving up your identity, it seems. For this reason, either sex of a certain age can relate to the hidden martial and relationship fears of monogamy and ‘the forever’. And like a responsible adult who comes of age, Dobkin makes sure the record is set straight at the end to appease us and tell us it’s going to be all right.

The Change-up comes with dirty diapers, dirty ladies and even dirtier gags, so if man-child humour delivered by the likes of Bateman and Reynolds is on the menu, this is a dish served with extra relish – even if it’s a tired old one underneath the Noughties presentation.