Probably the best thing you can say about The Change-Up is that it’s not as bad as it looks. Actually, no, the best thing you can say is that there’s a lot of surprising and sweet nudity.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The plot is largely what’s laid out in the trailer: Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds are two friends, one’s married, one’s a swinging bachelor, respectively. One night they get drunk and take a quick squirt in an enchanted fountain while simultaneously declaring their mutual desire to be the other.
Morning comes, and they get their wish. Hi-jinx ensue as Reynolds struggles with the pressures of fatherhood and the big, lawyer-ish-looking account that’s looming, and Bateman rediscovers the downsides of bachelor life. A plot recap is unnecessary because it’s just something on which a string of gags involving baby excretions, pregnant women, masturbation, baby nudity, dancing vegetables, and silly walks to make you grow at least six pairs of hands.
Director David Dobkin (The Wedding Crashers) tries to get a laugh from nearly everything and, for the audience I saw it with, it worked. To the extent that their reaction to film became more interesting than the film itself. At first I was fascinated by the comic beats they ate up and the extent to which they were involved.
When one of the characters has his big, dramatic realization toward the end and the movie went into its moment of seriousness to enforce the moral, or when Reynolds has to feed Bateman’s children and they find as much danger as they can around the kitchen, it got every heartfelt “Awww” or eager gasp it sought. I brought up Sullivan’s Travels in my review of Larry Crowne, but it may be more applicable here, because The Change-Up is, at its core, a low crowd pleaser.
And that’s not a snooty way of asserting my superiority. While the grosser and more shocking moments are cheap, the movie maintains an odd degree of confidence and tonal consistency that I weirdly admire it for. It doesn’t feel as desperate as The Hangover Part II or Horrible Bosses, and its stars Bateman, Reynolds, and Leslie Mann are so dedicated that it rises above something. What that something is, I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that it doesn’t aspire for anything more than what it achieves and doesn’t care that in a few years, it’ll be as rewatched as The Wedding Crashers.
Basically it comes down to this: If you’re the kind of person who reads reviews, then you probably won’t enjoy it much, because it doesn’t have anything new to add to the raunch. If you do find yourself in the theater, you may like Reynolds (have to admit that every time I see him on screen, I kind of like him) and the joke involving Olivia Wilde’s naughty bits (or just Ms. Wilde herself, if not Ms. Mann [or rather, Mrs. Apatow]). If you’re looking for an original comedy, go see Tabloid instead, and save The Change-Up for someone who doesn’t often see movies.
And if you like beer, Wikipedia usefully informs me that, “The beer that Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds are drinking during the bar scene is Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale from a microbrewery in Gadsden, Alabama named “Back Forty Beer Company”. The beer was awarded a Silver Medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO.”