I was surprised. “The Change-Up” is great. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman are amazing. Yes, this movie premise has been done before like “Big” or “Disney’s The Kid”. Reynolds and Bateman’s characters switch bodies in some sort of cosmic twist, after wishing each had the other’s life while urinating in a fountain. The predictable epiphany: Each man has appreciation for the other’s life, and renewed respect. However, the screenplay by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (writers of “The Hangover”) is not nearly so trite, and more profound in ambition.
The beginning of the movie is kind of a red herring; given the f-bomb laden language and the projectile baby poop. I think that the advertising as an edgy gross-out comedy misrepresents, and perhaps dilutes the true appeal. True, the question: “Whose penis does that belong to?” is not what we are left with; although it is funny. What if you got to see your life through another person, and through those that love him?
Two scenes resonate. Body switched Reynolds listens to Dave’s wife Jamie (funny and touching Leslie Mann) tearfully tell him that Dave no longer desires her. She confesses that Dave is a good man, who wants “more, more”: promotion, second house, more kids. How can she be with “someone who isn’t happy?” She is really confessing to Dave. Reynolds is brilliant in his humility.
Mitch’s Dad (great Alan Arkin) asks to see body switched Bateman for a favor. Mitch Sr. tells Dave that he loves his son, but that Mitch is a quitter. He quits everything in his life. He is really talking to Mitch. Bateman reflects the hurt in his eyes. This is offset by the hysterical scenes throughout. Mitch as Dave insults Japanese Senior Partner Kinkabe (stoic Lo Ming) during merger negotiation. Dave as Mitch tells the stunning Sabrina (captivating Olivia Wilde), “I haven’t heard I word you said since you took off your pants.”
Director David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) uses a deceptive smokescreen: the blatant offensive humor. Underneath it all, “The Change-Up” is about the most important things in life—love, friendship, and family. In a touching and ridiculous story arc, Reynolds tells Bateman, “I’m proud of you.”
In a roundabout way, “The Change-Up” is about seeing the best in people, by keeping the past in the past. Reynolds and Bateman make this work seamlessly. Theirs is a true partnership. They are not imitating or mocking the other in the narrative body switch. You get the feeling that they are authentically embodying the other’s perceived persona.
Leslie Mann is whimsical, sexy, and strong as Jamie– the movie’s emotional anchor. The “Thai food” joke from the trailer is way hotter in the movie. Mann is genius in balancing heartbreak and humor. Whether she is looking at Bateman singing the “dinner song”—he has no clue or holding hostage the babysitter with her story of her marriage woes. Olivia Wilde is stunningly gorgeous with impeccable comedic timing. She plays Sabrina, the legal assistant at Dave’s law firm. She goes out to dinner with Reynolds, and tells him that she had a crush on Dave—he is really Dave. Later in a hysterical exchange, she says, “Are you breaking up with me?” She is joking.
So the story ensues, Mitch (Reynolds) and Dave (Bateman) spiritually exchange bodies after urinating in a fountain with an eerie statue. Dave is the workaholic attorney hoping to make partner with his firm after managing a huge merger case for his firm. He lives in a great home, has a beautiful wife Jamie (Mann) and daughter Cara (cute Sydney Rouviere) and twin babies Peter and Sarah (Luke and Lauren Bain). Mitch is the single struggling actor, who lives in a loft. Mitch has an awesome sex life.
However, Mitch and Dave discover the fountain has been moved to a different location in the city. They don’t know yet where. In the meantime, Mitch must complete Dave’s big case with his partnership at stake. Dave must fulfill Mitch’s role in “lorn”, low-grade soft porn, which requires Dave to perform the unthinkable with his thumb. There is also the sexual quandary. Mitch is now Dave, and sleeping with Jamie. Dave is now Mitch, going out with Sabrina, who always yearned for married Dave.
Writers Lucas and Moore are bold and brilliant when half way through Mitch and Dave tell Jamie about the body switch. She hysterically dismisses them. So there is no idiot-plot here, at least outright. The crass comedy and the narrative catharsis don’t always meld throughout. But hang in there. Reynolds, Bateman, Mann, and Wilde are awesome. “The Change-Up” veers wildly at times, but it has its heart in the right place.