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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann
DIRECTED BY
David Dobkin
SCREENPLAY
Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
112 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Universal Pictures
DVD EXTRAS
  • Fist Fight Deleted Scene
  • Gag Reel
  • Time for a Change
  • Family Matter
  • Feature Commentary with Director David Dobkin (Theatrical and Unrated Versions)
 "The Change-Up" Review 
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Oh well, at least it's better than 17 Again.

Even for those of you who are diehard Ryan Reynolds and/or Jason Bateman fans, it's hard to believe you're holding out much hope for The Change-Up, yet the latest in a long line of "body switch" comedies to plague the multiplexes. These "body switch" comedies have ranged from the incredibly sweet and adorable, like Big, to the just plain awful, like 18 Again and everything in between including the aforementioned 17 Again, 13 Going on 30, Freaky Friday, Being John Malkovich and a host of others.

The Change-Up centers around two lifelong best friends. Dave (Jason Bateman) is a highly successful lawyer on the verge of becoming a partner with a beautiful wife (Leslie Mann) and three young children. Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) is your basic unemployed actor whose maturity level may very well be exceeded by that of Dave's young children. The two have largely remained best friends out of both obligation and envy. As much as Mitch drives Dave insane, Dave can't help but admire Mitch's freedom and carefree lifestyle. On the other hand, Mitch envies Dave's disciplined drive towards success and, on a certain level, even his stability and dependability.

How could a movie with two stars perfectly cast for the roles they are playing manage to go so incredibly wrong?

The Change-Up, directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) and written by the duo writing team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover), is a film that could've been and should've been one of summer 2011's highlights. Instead, it's a reminder that Dobkin has also directed the pretty darn close to awful films Shanghai Knights and Fred Claus while the Lucas/Moore writing duo also created the remarkably mediocre Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases along with this summer's The Hangover 2.

In fact, it's the same problems that plagued The Hangover 2 that nearly destroy The Change-Up. Even if you actually really enjoyed The Hangover 2, and I didn't hate it, it's almost possible to deny that the film was trying really hard to be a carbon copy of its predecessor. In this case, it's abundantly clear that Dobkin is trying to recreate the Wedding Crashers magic and, instead, the film itself simply crashes.

The Change-Up is occasionally very funny, especially in the film's final third when the film's relationships start to take on some meaning and the ridiculously stupid raunch gives way to more natural and spontaneous humor. There's nothing particularly wrong with raunchy humor, but raunchy humor for the sake of raunchy humor gets old quickly and isn't nearly enough to hold together a film such as this one. It's almost painful to watch Reynolds and Bateman in the first half of the film, one incredibly gifted comic actor (Bateman) and one actor clearly in his element (Reynolds) and neither one able to make sense of scenes and set-ups that were painfully lacking in comic spark and reduced to intentionally offensive one-liners and uncomfortably creepy humor that exploits men, women, children and just about every population group.

The sad thing here is that there's a terrific film trying to find its way to the surface, and there's an incredible able cast ready to pull it off. Both Bateman and Reynolds manage to be funny here and, even more surprisingly, both manage to exude quite a bit of charm and goodness despite being asked to spew obscenities relentlessly, being subjected to flung poop, being reduced to idiotic caricatures of manhood who pee in public fountains in front of children and it just goes on and on. Even the premise itself is difficult to accept, with Mitch before the switch so completely sexualizing Dave's wife that only a complete and utter moron wouldn't have abandoned the friendship years earlier.

The mere fact that both Bateman and Reynolds manage to offer pockets of genuine entertainment is a testimony to their gifts as an actor and makes you really lament the failure of this film. Leslie Mann, one of contemporary cinema's more gifted comic actresses with a tremendous ability to sell both humanity and humor, is reduced to obviously CGI'd boob shots basically exhisting in a psychological vacuum while she gets swapped around. One of the film's highlights may very well be the performance of Olivia Wilde, who plays an incredibly sexy and intelligent assistant to Dave. We've always known that Wilde could pull off sexy ... heck, she can do that merely by breathing. Here, Wilde is sexy and naughty, nice and sweet, tomboyish and outright charming.

The characters are written so fundamentally that there are times it's difficult to follow who's Dave and who's Mitch, while it's even harder to actually work up the energy to care. Despite an abundance of talent and tremendous promise, The Change-Up is merely Dobkin trying to create another Wedding Crashers and Lucas/Moore trying to get hung over one more time. They fail miserably and, if you choose to spend your hard-earned bucks on this film, it'll be you that ultimately pays the price.

While I'm seldom one to provide cautions about a film, parents should be warned that The Change-Up carries a hard R rating due to excessive graphic language, graphic nudity, drug use and some graphic sexual content. There's also a couple scenes, including an extended sequence, of children in peril (which also includes horrid CGI).

Really, there are some great films in theatres. Skip this one and go see Crazy, Stupid, Love this weekend.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
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    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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