Sunday, August 7, 2011

Squalor: The Change-Up

It's never a good sign when a film is as overexposed - months ahead of time - as The Change-Up has been.  Months of pre-movie trailers and repeat advertisements should have been all I needed to avoid this film at all costs, but somehow I wound up in that ice box of a theater anyhow with the slightest glimmer of hope.  After all, the trailer had had a humorous moment or two, and this has been a solid enough summer for R-rated comedies. Confession?  I'm not sure why I stayed past the first five minutes.  Perhaps we can blame "The Holmes Index," and say the weather was hot and humid enough for me to stay put even after watching a torrential amount of baby shit spurt into Jason Bateman's face, an ugly as sin digitally rendered baby bang its skull with super-speed against a crib, and Ryan Reynolds wake and bake with his disconcerting dead shark eyes.  There's simply no other excuse.  I should have walked out right off and gotten my $8 back.  Instead, I sat through the entirety of The Change-Up without laughing and can say with some degree of certainty that this is the most detrimental piece of drivel aimed at adults to be released this summer.
This is a film that isn't sure if it's a high concept comedy, a romantic comedy, a children's movie, or a sex comedy, but instead of eventually settling with one, it works too hard at being rampantly ADD.  The Change-Up is a dumb little terrier of a film that yips, yaps, humps your leg, and has to try, constantly, to achieve anything at all.  As it works to please it acts out irrationally and gnaws on your patience, valuing offense above all else and shooting to shock in scene after cringe-inducing scene.  There are moments where you may think it may be alright, that things are evening out, that the film is being housebroken, but then it goes and leaves you a present in your Jimmy Choos.  The result is the constant stink of absolute desperation.  Everyone involved in The Change-Up is in a constant state of overacting, as though the director was standing off to the side with a whip screaming "more, do it louder, spit take harder, make us hate ourselves."  The shame is that these are decent actors with a fair number of solid comedic performances in their pasts.  While the Freaky Friday body switch is obviously at the heart of the story, it quickly becomes all of the story, leaving a trail of bodily fluids, tears, and character shells in its wake.  Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds play childhood friends (this in spite of the fact that Reynolds appears quite a bit younger than Bateman) who have set off on very different paths.  Reynolds plays stereotypical stunted adolescent Mitch, a slacker out of work actor who gets girl after girl with some sort of magical combination of misogyny and abdominal muscles.  Bateman is Dave, the nice guy cliche worker bee who "has it all": wife, kids, nice house, great job, cash to burn.  They piss in a fountain, make an accidental wish out of mutual politeness, and wake up in each other's skins and saying the darnedest things.
Post-body swap, all things become sophomorically bipolar.  The characters are so far apart in their outlook that prior to the swap, we were already questioning what they saw in each other.  Mitch is self-involved, narcissistic, and terrible.  Dave is merely bland.  Ryan Reynolds may have been the wrong actor to cast in this film, but watching Jason Bateman exit his straight-man comfort zone and slip into the role of crazed idiot is painful.  Whoever wrote Mitch is a sadist, I think.  In fact, the creators in this film must simply hate all of their characters, and have made the film solely to share this burden.  We're given no reason to care for them, our collective empathy is not appealed to.  Instead, what we see are people so foolishly narcissistic that they nearly destroy one another's lives.  While there's little to say about her acting, Olivia Wilde may be the bright spot of The Change-Up (though we could say the same about Sydney Rouviere, the little girl playing Dave's daughter).  As Dave's co-worker Sabrina, Wilde's got enough of a personality to at least distract us from the vile bouts of mayhem, gay panic, and more Mitch and his mouth are involved in.  Still, Wilde isn't much more than an alternate Megan Fox and Sabrina isn't a strong enough female role to stop the film from belittling  both genders.  This movie makes men look terrible, yes, but it also allows for a depressing number of lady-bashing cliches and poor, ignored housewife conventions.  So, The Change-Up is a failure in many regards.  It's not much of a film, and it's certainly a botched comedy.  In fact, while we're on it, I should mention that it's also an egregious trailer offender as the majority of the scenes shown in the advertisements aren't even present in the final cut, at least, not in the manner you've seen them a dozen or so times. So, apart from an acute observation comparing children to drug addicts, The Change-Up is a depressing display of  American idiocy that panders to the lowest common denominator.


  1. That's too bad. But considering I didn't like the Wedding Crasher or Fred Clause I wasn't expecting much from this one.

  2. This is some real gross stuff they have here but it actually had me laughing mainly because of Reynolds and Bateman's great performances that seem to be a little bit against type. Good Review! Check out mine please!


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