That curious noise you can hear is the bottom of the barrel being scraped. The Change-Up is the latest body swap comedy which shows a complete lack of imagination, an obsession with puerile vulgarity and precious little humour.
Jason Bateman plays Dave – a workaholic hotshot lawyer who is struggling to juggle his career with his wife (Leslie Mann) and three kids. His best friend is Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), an irresponsible layabout who dabbles in acting but spends most of his time stoned out of his box and sleeping around.
After a heavy night drinking, they stumble home through a park to take a joint whizz in a municipal fountain where they both drunkenly proclaim that they’d like to have each others’ lives. Surprise surprise, the next morning they awake to find that their wishes have come true. Hilarity does not ensue.
Given that this is a film which opens with a baby defecating in Jason Bateman’s open mouth, expectations are initially set low. There’s nothing quite as vulgar in the ensuing 90 minutes but there’s still a tiresome overreliance on toilet humour and alarming use of profanity. That’s not to say that profanity is in itself a bad thing – films like In The Loop and even Full Metal Jacket know the comedy value of a well timed swear – but here it feels like needless crudity, as if the writers think that if their characters utter enough blue words, we won’t notice that their film isn’t very funny.
Cursing aside, the comedy supposedly comes from their fish-out-of water attempts to cope with each others’ lives– a sort of adult Freaky Friday with guys instead of girls. So Mitch has to wrangle his way through a complicated legal merger and Dave has to struggle with Mitch’s previously undeclared role in “Lorno” movies – that’s “light porno” – sex without the nudity.
Mitch is simply too extreme to be believable. He lives the life of a 30-something man-child – fridge overflowing with leftover takeways, bachelor pad utterly dishevelled, strange women calling him for hook-ups at 3am.
Even so, it’s hard to believe that Mitch could be so clueless about basic things like office etiquette – after turning up at Dave’s office dressed in sports jacket, he proceeds to stuff his pockets full of pastries and fiddle with his chair in a business meeting. Irresponsible he may be, but the film requires that you also assume him to be profoundly stupid.
This kind of behaviour works in a movie like Big – where the character was literally a child in an adult’s body but here it’s not only implausible but utterly humourless.
It’s a testament to the inherent likeability of both stars that the film isn’t wholly reprehensible. Seeing Jason Bateman (who’s almost always the straight man) fly off the handle and let loose a stream of profanity is rather fun and Reynolds is fine, if completely bland. But the writing is on predictable rails and tries unsuccessfully to milk a teat from which all the potential dried up long ago.