Friday, 16 September 2011

The Change-Up

Dave and Mitch have been friends since childhood, but their lives have gone in different directions; Dave is a family man, married with kids, and working hard as a lawyer, whereas Mitch is living a hedonistic lifestyle, sleeping with various women and only occasionally working with any kind if responsibility. One night, while peeing into a fountain after a drunken night out, they both wish they had each others' lives. They wake up the next morning to find their wishes have come true, and the hilarity ensues from there...

The age/body swap is a staple of the comedy genre. Seriously, do you realise how many times it's been done in various formats? Freaky Friday (3 times), Big, 17 Again, 18 Again!, Vice Versa, 13 Going On 30, even Being John Malkovich... The list goes on and on. My point is it's been done multiple times, so for a film like this to come out and work, it's going to have to be original. The Change-Up promises something original: The American Pie route. We've been promised the most disgusting, extreme, gross-out age/body swap comedy of all time! So, is it a gross-out film? At times, yes, yes it is, they've gotten that right. So has that made this an original piece of work within the genre? Absolutely not.

The Change-Up is so formulaic that you know exactly where it's going right from the start. There are no surprises or shocks in this, and adding lots of poo and urine jokes does not make it original, it just shows how lazy the writers were, looking to grab some of that Hangover revenue that's become so lucrative over the last few years (which is hardly surprising, given this was actually written by the writers of The Hangover). In the first two minutes, poor Jason Bateman gets covered in baby crap. That's the level we're at, people. This film is pretty uninventive and has 'pay day' written all over it. It's a real shame for Bateman, who's really let himself down by getting involved with a film like this after appearing in the fairly decent Horrible Bosses earlier in the year; it seemed as if he'd left films like this and The Switch behind, but alas not, and he deserves a lot better than this.

Speaking of Bateman, he does well in a complicated role. He spends most of the films playing Ryan Reynolds playing Reynolds' character, much as Reynolds spends the film playing Bateman playing Bateman's character. It all gets complicated when you try and explain/think about it, but once the characters are established at the start of the film as polar opposites, it becomes an easier task to follow just who exactly is playing who and when. All this means Bateman gets to play against type for the film, playing the wildcard rather than the straight guy, and he does OK with it but it doesn't feel like a natural performance, it feels as forced as it looks and shows why he's better playing the straight guy. Reynolds, however, does well in both roles, playing the wildcard well initially and then playing the straight guy very well, picking up on Bateman's usual mannerisms and portraying them on screen near-perfectly.

No-one said this was a clever film, but we were promised laughs. It does raise a few to be fair, but they are few and far between, which is mildly disappointing but not entirely surprising. Honestly, an alarmingly large percentage of the film only serves to make the viewer uncomfortable in watching it because of how unfunny it is. There's no real inventiveness either, the film covers a lot of old ground and doesn't do anything with it, doesn't put a funny or inventive twist on it and just disappoints. I feel kind of dirty having laughed at some of the jokes the film offers up - I'm disappointed in myself for stooping so low. It's real low-rent humour, but it could have been so much worse. It's certainly not on par with, say, The Hangover Part II, but it's still nowhere near the levels Bridesmaids or even Horrible Bosses reached earlier this year.

Overall, it is a disappointment, but an entirely unsurprising disappointment. This never looked like a great film, not even a good film, and it's not, so you only have yourself to blame when you leave the cinema feeling dirty, ashamed and disappointed. There's a couple of laughs, and on paper it's an interesting notion to see Reynolds and Bateman play against type, but put into practice and it really doesn't work. The film never really gets off the ground; it stays at one level and adamantly refuses to reach for anything higher or more intelligent. It's puerile, gross, disgusting, unintelligent, uninventive... The list goes on and on. Much like the list of age/body swap comedies this unfortunately joins. If you've chosen to watch this over any of the far superior films out this month, nay this week, then shame on you, you deserve exactly what you get with this.

Rating: **