Yes, there is a new body-switching comedy out and even though it shares the same concept as movies like “Freaky Friday,” it is by far the furthest departure from the typical PG-rated genre as this is a raunchy, raucous and in your face movie that earns its R rating in the opening montage.
Director David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers” and “Shanghai Knights”) has teamed up with the writing duo of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“The Hangover”) to try to put a new spin on a familiar idea.
Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) have been buddies since grade school, but their lives have taken them in different directions. Dave is an overworked lawyer, husband and father of three, while Mitch is a semi-employed actor who sleeps around and has the mindset of a man-child. On one of their rare nights out together, they get drunk and start talking about the parts of each other’s lives they envy. While emptying their bladders in a fountain adorned by a Greek Goddess, they each say “I wish I had your life!” and in the morning they do. Each wakes up in a panic as they find themselves in a bed that isn’t their own and soon come to the realization that they have switched bodies.
As they figure out the previous night’s events, they realize the happenstances at the fountain and rush back to find it has been removed for renovations. After they go on a wild goose chase that takes them to government facilities and an endless paper trail, they conclude they must work out an arrangement to get through the other’s life until they can find the fountain. As Dave has a promotion upcoming that is dependent on the conclusion of a multi-million dollar company merger and Mitch has an acting job that he thinks will be his big break, they will just have to be each other for a few days. What comes next is a series of fish-out-of-water experiences for both and some shocking results on both sides.
Meanwhile, Dave’s marriage is in a rut and his wife Jamie (Leslie Mann) is on the verge of a breakdown because she feels her husband is so busy chasing his dream career that he is neglecting her and the kids. Mitch’s life is far less complex, unless you count the daily sex buddies schedule that he expects Dave to take care of while in his body. There is also a complicated relationship with his father (Alan Arkin), who is planning on getting married and wants Mitch to be there. Another complication is that Dave has an attractive legal assistant named Sabrina (Olivia Wilde) that he would never make advances towards, but since he isn’t in his body Mitch-in-Dave’s-body sets up a date for him and Sabrina. Seem complicated? It’s easier to understand when you are watching it.
Once you get past the basic premise, there is the relationship between the two friends, which is the basis for the entire film and this is where Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds succeed. They have true chemistry, and being two of the funniest guys around, I was excited to see this pairing. Bateman, who usually plays the more reserved roles, got to get out there this time and be the over-the-top jerk that you rarely get to see him play. Reynolds, who has had a far larger range of comedic roles, starts off as the lonely, womanizing jerk, but then plays a softer side when he is supposed to be Dave in his body quite well. Both hit it out of the park with their performances — which could have easily been turned into bad impersonations of each other.
Leslie Mann had a role that typically would have been seen as the nagging wife, but instead they went with a much more emotional and wounded wife who loves her husband and just wants the spark back. Olivia Wilde is more of a secret wild child who is a professional business woman by day and has a far less serious attitude at night. She is entrancing to look at, so even though she didn’t have a ton of lines, I was just happy to see her in the movie.
Overall, the acting was great by everybody. I would say the flaws didn’t come from the performances but from the script, which at times seemed hum-drum and mediocre. There are a lot of laughs in this film — most come from shock or horror — but there are also far too many potty-humor ones for my tastes. Between Leslie Mann’s Thai food induced diarrhea scene to the twins projectile crap, there were a lot of cheap laughs which kept most in the theater laughing while being grossed out. Because this is an R-rated film there are quite a few sex related jokes and most of them come out of left field. The jokes were gross and crude, but that is to be expected when it comes to these types of movies.
I did enjoy the film as a whole, but I wish that a few specific scenes were a bit more polished in the writing stages. This film is definitely not one for everyone; as I said earlier, it earns its R rating and was very close to getting an NC-17 rating at one point.
In summary, this film is funny, heartfelt and pretty gross, but that is why people will want to see it and the actors do take what could have been a completely clichéd male remake of “Freaky Friday” and turned it into a movie that will surprise many. Is it the best comedy I have seen this year? No, but it succeeds by far over the horrible catastrophe that was “The Hangover: Part 2.” So audiences should get what they are hoping for when they see this film.
“The Change-Up” is in theaters today.
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