Thursday, August 18, 2011
The Change-Up (David Dobkin, 2011) -- C+
Shocking as it may be to acknowledge, The Change-Up is a relatively painless, sometimes funny, and often enjoyable comedic effort that takes its high-concept premise, sets up various obstacles in the first act, then adequately resolves them after the titular reversal takes shape. Surely, the script is wholly literal, taking workaholic father Dave (Jason Bateman) and bong-ripping womanizer Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), each of whom are dissatisfied with various facets of their repetitive lives, then switching them (through a magic fountain, no less), where each can identify solutions to their actual lives, while resolving any animosity existing about the other's chosen path. Souring relevant observations about difference and daily monotony are several gross-out gags, including projectile baby-shit, dancing CGI babies, and the genre's re-discovered sexism (Leslie Mann and Olivia Wilde, though likeable, get the shrew and slut treatment). All unfortunate inclusions (though not the least bit surprising coming from "the writers of The Hangover" as the poster boasts), but what salvages The Change-Up (at least if we're grading on a bit of a curve here) is its reliance on leads to carry the comedic torch - and Bateman and Reynolds are more than up for the task. Knowing each actor's history makes the inside joke all the more humorous, if stale by the film's conclusion. Nevertheless, director David Dobkin deserves marginal credit for insisting his film have a structure, a through-line to comedic ends, rather than choppy, less-focused summer comedies like Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses, or Friends with Benefits. Perhaps that distinction shouldn't be enough to warrant a warm response to the film's simplistic, muddled understanding of each character and his/her dilemmas, but in the worn-down, dog-days of summer, The Change-Up is oddly refreshing and certainly no worse than most any other mainstream summer garbage.