Dave (Bateman) is an exhausted family man. Mitch (Reynolds) is a Lothario whose life is going nowhere. One night, while drunkenly peeing in a park fountain, they make a wish to switch lives. And hey presto...
While Hollywood hasn't yet completely scraped the bottom of the body-swap-comedy barrel — that will come with the arrival of a film in which Billy Zane switches souls with a dolphin — it’s certainly probing said barrel’s gloomier recesses. In recent years we’ve had films in which a jock becomes a wallflower (It’s A Boy Girl Thing), a woman becomes her sister (Wish Upon A Star) and a hottie becomes Rob Schneider (The Hot Chick). Now we get The Change-Up, whose novel twist on the formula is that it’s rude. Very rude. From the opening scene, where effluence squirts from a baby’s bottom into Jason Bateman’s mouth, to the MacGuffin of a magical fountain one must urinate in to activate, it’s so determinedly crass that it’s a wonder they managed to cut a green-band trailer at all.
No doubt the whole conceit was ‘inspired’ by the success of The Hangover, whose box office showed that R-rated comedy can be a gold mine, leading to the likes of Bad Teacher, Bridesmaids et al. But the odd funny set-piece can’t disguise the fact that The Change-Up (written by Hangover scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) stretches the thinnest of stories to snapping point. The body-swap gold standard, Big, had a big heart beneath its antic action. The same can’t be said of this, which uses the set-up to get one of our heroes into bed with a heavily pregnant ‘comedy’ nympho, and the other into a scenario where he can be offensive to Japanese businessmen.
The cheap laughs and flashes of female nudity (some of it from a very game Leslie Mann; much of it, oddly, digitally tweaked) don’t sit well with the serious stuff: a subplot about the family man’s wife, who is feeling neglected, and another about the player’s dad, who wants to re-connect with his progeny, both of which feel tacked on.
That the movie works at all is mostly due to the charms of its lead duo, Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, neither of whom usually operates in this raunchy, F-bomb-laden realm. It’s actually quite refreshing to watch them cut loose with unspeakable profanities — especially the former, who’s too often stuck with stodgy-square roles — and there’s an easy rhythm to their jibber-jabber that makes this a painless watch. Sadly, it’s nothing more than that.
Despite the promise of the title, this a fairly stale offering, plodding through the beats of a well-worn subgenre but failing to add much more than a foul mouth.