Change brings nothing new in R-rated comedy
‘The Change-Up’Starring: Jason Bateman, Ryan ReynoldsDirector: Dave DobkinRated: R
The appeal of an R-rated comedy is it tends to be geared more to an adult audience (even if a healthy streak of immaturity is needed to truly enjoy it). The downside is once you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all.
This summer has brought at least four, none of which has fired up audiences like the first “Hangover,” although all have had their moments. Those precious moments are harder to find in this latest raunchy comedy. It employs the old “Freaky Friday” premise of taking two friends out of their comfort zones and helping them find their mojo again.
They say to truly understand someone, you must first walk in their shoes. Dave Lockwood’s (Jason Bateman) shoes are typical corporate lawyer wingtips to go with his conservative suit. His buddy Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) is strictly a Converse All-Stars guy to go with his wannabe actor free-spirit attitude. Childhood buddies that couldn’t be further apart in their stations in life, they set out to have drink and wind up in each other’s bodies after making an unfortunate wish while urinating in a fountain.
Suddenly, Mitch, the immature dude who is quite the ladies’ man, finds himself in bed next to Jamie (Leslie Mann), Mitch’s wife, and guess what. It’s his turn to change the twins’ diapers. Meanwhile Dave opens his eyes and finds he’s in Mitch’s “Hoarders: The Early Years” apartment, which is eclectic to put it politely. Now, until they can figure out how to get their lives back, they’ll be forced to carry on as each other.
Of course, for each this means examining what their lives could have been like. Dave chose to pursue an Ivy League education and law school and his hard work is paying off because he’s just about to make partner if Mitch doesn’t screw up the merger deal he’s toiling over. Mitch is a slacker with commitment issues and a few commercials and walk-ons on his resume, but frankly he works harder at bedding women than he does at his career.
Dave Dobkin, who also brought us “The Wedding Crashers” (2005), directs from a script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore that relies heavily on F-bombs, and the “F” doesn’t stand for funny. It’s way too easy with an R-rating to fall back on four-letter words and nudity. Unfortunately, that’s the case here: too much of both. To some degree it adds realism to the proceedings, but all too often it’s the main way to get laughs out of a weak script.
To their credit, Bateman and Reynolds try to rise above the juvenile high jinks and dialog. The switcheroo comedy depends on the ability of the actors to mimic each other, and they have just enough of each other’s mannerisms down to make it believable.
Mann and Olivia Wilde as Sabrina, one of Dave’s co-workers, are both good sports since much of the script calls for them to be topless. When they aren’t topless, male characters talk incessantly about how they wish they were. Welcome to the typical guy comedy.
Here’s an idea — next time have the guys switch places with the ladies so they can experience sexual harassment and objectification. Oh, wait, that’s been done before, too. So much for the “Change-Up.”