Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds Buried Under ‘The Change-Up’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – “The Change-Up” is an undeniable mess, as any movie that opens with a grown man getting baby crap projected into his mouth would be (and that’s just the beginning), but one of the worst scripts of the year is saved from the depths of comedy hell by a talented cast headlined by the typically-restrained Jason Bateman playing against type. It’s still a misstep for everyone involved but nowhere near as grand a fall as it could have been because of the inherent talent of the cast.

Do we really need to see Jason Bateman shaving the balls of Ryan Reynolds? How about the latter actor smiling as he takes a dump? Have you been dying to see a very-pregnant women try and mount the star of “The Proposal” and “Green Lantern”? There are moments in “The Change-Up” that honestly made me feel like a twelve-year-old boy took over his dad’s screenwriting project. Except most twelve-year-old boys aren’t this puerile. The ads have touted it as being from the writers of “The Hangover” but even the characters in the Wolfpack would say this script goes too far in the gross-out genre.

The Change-Up
The Change-Up
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Like someone falling asleep after a twisted double feature of “Freaky Friday” and “Wedding Crashers,” “The Change-Up” centers on body-switching but with a well-promoted hard-R edge. Single player Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) trades places with family man Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) and the two are forced to deal with each other’s ridiculous lives. Can the slacker actor become a successful attorney and family man? Can the uptight workaholic loosen up and have some fun? Will everyone learn a lesson by the final reel? Have you seen a movie before?

There have been several R-rated comedies this season trying to bank off the success of “The Hangover” from “Bad Teacher” to “Horrible Bosses,” but they all would tell the writers of “The Change-Up” they’ve gone too far. Where do we start? How about with the actual sex act, which is treated like something that could only possibly be a set-up for a joke whether it’s the grossest “lorno” (light porno of the kind you see on Cinemax) scene in history or the heavily-advertised Thai food bit as a door-slammer on doing it. What does work about “The Change-Up” is buried under the weight of the gross-out jokes that just aren’t funny.

And it’s a shame because there are a few things to like here, mostly thanks to two talented actors giving it their comedic all. Reynolds gets to have some fun doing his Bateman impersonation but it is his co-star who truly steals the piece, dropping more f-bombs than Scarface and telling one raunchy joke after another. Bateman has some of the best timing of any actor working today and he truly shows it here. It’s just a shame that it’s at the expense of such a stupid script.

The Change-Up
The Change-Up
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

How stupid? I haven’t even gotten into the fact that this is the most misogynistic major Hollywood films in years. There are only two female characters and they represent the way that these adolescent writers feel about women – Leslie Mann plays the always-cleaning, never-screwing, mostly-crying, sometimes-breastfeeding wife role while Olivia Wilde is the single gal, the one who drinks and gets tattoos and goes to baseball games and wants to sleep with you. It would be offensive if it wasn’t so stupidly simple-minded - girls are either pretty or gross, no in-between for the 12-year-olds who wrote this.

What the writers of “The Change-Up” don’t understand about marriage or even being a single struggling actor is really quite remarkable. There’s actually a sequence in which Dave (now in Mitch’s body) grins broadly while he rollerblades and reads a book, as if those things NEVER happen when you’re married, working, and a father. Trust me. They do. And, on the other end, Mitch (now in Dave’s body) is so openly hostile and obnoxious at his friend’s law firm that he would not only be fired but arrested. And, guess what, just because someone doesn’t have kids doesn’t mean they’re dumb enough to put them on a kitchen counter next to a blender. (Credit to Bateman for making that scene actually work. It’s amazing to see some of the heavy lifting he pulls off in the film.)

The Change-Up
The Change-Up
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

And that’s not the worst of it. What annoys me the most about “The Change-Up” is the final act, in which filmmakers who centered an entire sequence around a grown man putting his thumb up a woman’s ass actually try to get sentimental and teach us all a lesson about what’s important life. It’s undeserved, manipulative trash and it should have you throwing things at the screen. At least we’re cued to every “lesson” by one of the most generic, silly scores in ages, so you can prepare for the nausea.

In the end, Jason Bateman and, to a lesser extent, Ryan Reynolds keep “The Change-Up” from sliding into Dane Cook territory even if the script constantly threatens to drag it down there. If only these actors could have changed places with someone else – a pair of performers in a better movie.

“The Change-Up” stars Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, and Alan Arkin. It was written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore and directed by David Dobkin. It is rated R and was released on August 5th, 2011.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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