There's a decent chance that you've seen a body-swapping movie at some point. It doesn't matter how many times they beat this premise into the ground, there will always be someone in Hollywood to finance a script about a rebellious kid and his uptight parent switching skins with (hopefully) comedic results. So when we first heard about 'The Change-Up,' we about put our heads through the wall.
Then, however, we actually saw the movie. Before we knew it, we were laughing -- hard -- right on through to the end. We didn't expect much from something we could've written while sleeping, but color us stunned: This ended up being one of the year's funniest movies.
What's It About?
'The Change-Up' is about two guys -- a workaholic family man who's too busy climbing the ladder at his law firm to be there for his wife and kids, and his 30-something best friend who fills his days as a bachelor with copious amounts of sex and avoiding any kind of responsibility. On one fateful night, they hit the bar, get drunk, go relieve themselves in a magic public fountain, and say, simultaneously, "I wish I had your life." The following morning, they wake to find that they have swapped bodies and can't switch back because the magical fountain is gone. To prevent either of their lives from spiraling into total chaos, they must take on their newfound responsibility/irresponsibility. And wouldn't you know it? They end up growing along the way.
What Sets It Apart From All the Other Body-Swapping Movies?
For starters, it's aware of the fact that we've already heard this story a million times. It doesn't try to reinvent the wheel and, partially because of that, it feels relatively fresh. It's also consistently entertaining thanks to solid writing and a killer cast.
As far as the script goes, sure, you already know how the plot's going to play out, but it is surprisingly sharp, shamelessly rude and really quite funny from beginning to end. It's packed with tons of quotable one-liners and memorable scenes, and much of it is stuff we haven't heard or seen before because a lot of this stuff was pretty taboo up until now.
The other thing that sets it apart is that this is no PG-13 family-friendly movie about a kid and his parent changing bodies and getting into wacky hijinks; rather, this is a very R-rated comedy about two grown men changing bodies and getting into some jaw-droppingly dirty situations that involve lots of swearing and nudity, plus some pretty foul poop gags that get just as many laughs as cringes. This is not a movie for the whole family to enjoy -- this is the movie that Mommy and Daddy go to after they give the babysitter 30 bucks and start doing shooters at the bar next to the theater.
This is a seriously hard R, especially for a comedy, that walks a fine line between bad taste and flat-out repulsive -- which works in its favor because we've never seen it in a body-swap movie. After all, it's directed by the guy who did 'Wedding Crashers' and written by the guys who penned 'The Hangover.' That should give you an idea of what to expect.
The character development here feels genuine and the movie ends up being pretty heartfelt, which balances out all the gag-reflex-inducing stuff. We do care about these two guys, their friendship and their families, elevating this from just another gross-out comedy.
How Are Bateman and Reynolds?
If you've seen 'Arrested Development,' then you'll understand why we're such big fans of Jason Bateman. He's a seriously funny guy, as likable as they come, but he's also been playing the straight-laced, likable, funny guy for a long time now and we've been waiting to see him branch out a bit. So when the movie starts out and he's in his own body as Dave, he's typical Bateman good, but he's somewhat overshadowed by the crazy things coming out of Ryan Reynolds' mouth. But then the switch happens, Bateman starts channeling his inner Van Wilder, and for the rest of the movie he absolutely steals the show.
This is the role we've been waiting for Bateman to take, and he runs away with it like he's just been waiting just as long. It's thrilling to see him play a shamelessly crass, often unlikable guy for a change, and he throws himself into the role like he's having the time of his life.
Which isn't to say that Reynolds takes a backseat. Whether he's playing himself as Mitch or channeling his inner Michael Bluth post-switch, the guy nails it. It's been a while since we've seen Reynolds strut his comedic chops, and now that he has free reign to do just that, we're hoping the Hollywood fat cats take notice and start recognizing him for his stellar comedic timing rather than just his handsome mug and washboard abs.
The chemistry between Bateman and Reynolds really couldn't be better, and these may very well be the funniest roles of their careers thus far (and that's saying something).
Backing them up with a much-needed feminine touch are Olivia Wilde as Dave's secretary and Leslie Mann as Dave's wife. Much like Reynolds, Wilde is far more famous these days for her looks than her sense of humor, but she does a bang-up job of combining both by baring all and bringing the laughs. She should really do more comedies.
Then there's Leslie Mann, and we couldn't believe how good she was. She's had her moments in movies like 'Knocked Up' and 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' but this is the first time she's really held her own with the leading men and had us busting a gut.
Is It Worth Seeing?
The only other movie that's made us laugh this hard all year is 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop,' and for a sub-genre that really needed a breath of fresh air to make it work, 'The Change-Up' delivers and then some. It barely avoided getting slapped with an NC-17 rating, so it might be a struggle for some to get past all the envelope-pushing. But as gross as it can sometimes get, we were laughing too darn hard at it all to really pay that any mind.
8/10 Sleazebag Switcheroos
Photos courtesy of Universal.