David Dobkin’s The Change-Up arrived earlier this year following a marketing campaign pitched at the level of an out-of-control air siren, made a couple of bucks at the box office, and was then promptly forgotten about until now, when the film hit DVD and Blu-ray. Admit it: you didn’t even remember this film came out this year until you saw the title of this review. You probably didn’t bother seeing it in theaters, but if you did, you’ve blocked it from your memory. Now that it’s available on home video, you’ve got the option of either A) reliving the magic, or B) seeing Dobkin’s film for the very first time. Should you? Find out after the jump, folks.
Let’s get straight to it: I really, really, really didn’t enjoy my time with The Change-Up. It might be one of my least favorite films of the year. This is a massively unfunny, mean-spirited, awkwardly loud, over-budgeted “body-switch” comedy that no one was asking for (did they learn nothing with Vice Versa? Or Like Father, Like Son?), and it made me feel bad for everyone involved, from Leslie Mann (playing Jason Bateman’s put-upon wife) to Dobkin himself, who’s shown talent in the comedy genre before. I even felt bad for Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, the two gifted comic actors at the center of the film. I’m certain that both of these guys know better than this, and I felt bad watching them try to make this material work.
In the end, that may be the best way to put it: The Change-Up made me feel bad. There’s your pull-quote, Universal.
You may’ve forgotten the endless commercials that ran in support of this film earlier this year, so let’s recap the plot: Dave (Bateman) and Mitch (Reynolds) are two dude-bro types, the former a business-dude, the latter a slacker-dude. After a night of heavy drinking (in what appears to be the world’s whitest Buffalo Wild Wings), the two take a leak in a fountain and switch bodies. Suddenly, the business-dude must act like a womanizing, lazy toolbox, while the slacker-dude must act like a responsible adult! Oh, the hijinks that will ensue! Of course the fountain’s missing when the two come back the following day—neither wants to switch places with the other, even if they did say the opposite the night before—so most of the film’s a waiting game, with the two acting out one another’s lives while they try and hunt down the Magic Pee Fountain. Eventually, they find it, and we’re supposed to think they learned some lessons along the way.
It’s just…I can’t even…I mean, why? Did we really need another version of this? Even if it had been done with wit, I can’t imagine getting thrilled about this premise again. It’s so ridiculous, in fact, that I couldn’t help but stare in wonder at the scene where Bateman and Reynolds—having just realized that they’ve switched bodies—confront one another and do the “We’ve switched bodies! Oh, no!” freak-out scene. I’m sitting there thinking, “These guys are not stupid. They know this is a lame premise. How in the hell did they stand in front of cameras and act out this material without bursting into gales of shame-drenched laughter?” The paychecks must’ve been enormous.
And the problems? Oh, the problems are legion. In the interest of not turning this into a 3,000 word diatribe about the film (here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: don’t bother), I’ll just list my most pressing concerns. To begin, a “body-switch comedy” needs two performers whose styles and mannerisms are so wildly different, you can tell when one of the performers is “playing” the other. When you watch John Woo’s Face-Off and Travolta’s playing Nic Cage, you can tell Travolta’s doing his Nic Cage impression, as odd as it may be. Watch The Change-Up, and the only indication that Bateman’s playing Reynolds is…he says the “F-word” a lot. Bravo, gentlemen (also, allow me to point out the inherent absurdity of using Face-Off to make a point about anything). The problem here is obvious: there’s not enough different about Bateman and Reynolds as performers to sell the “switch”.
The film tries to make up for this by having one of the characters (Bateman’s) be a straight-laced family man and the other (Reynolds) being a horn-dog ladies’ man, but beyond the characters’ hobbies, they’re both sleaze-bag types. Here’s the second-biggest problem in The Change-Up: you’d think that Bateman’s character would be the “goody two-shoes” of the two, but no: he’s just as much of an aggro, immoral dick as Reynolds is. A smarter script—and a more successful film—would’ve made these characters polar opposites, but its version of that is far too thin for the “switch” to read correctly on-screen.
Third: the tone’s all over the map. One minute, Leslie Mann’s delivering an impassioned, emotional speech about how her husband (actually Reynolds wearing Bateman’s body) doesn’t find her attractive anymore; the next, Bateman’s kicking in the door and shrieking about the freckles on his taint. The Change-Up thinks that it can have its cake and eat it, too, that it can deliver the raunch alongside the laughs (this is something that Dobkin actually pulled off in Wedding Crashers), but it fails whenever it tries. These wildly jarring moments land with a thud, one after another, until you’re left actively disliking the characters and the disingenuousness of the script. Oh, hey, and speaking of disingenuousness, did I mention that the film features about half a dozen scenes utilizing painfully obvious CGI effects, some of which are nude scenes? It’s borderline insulting.
I found The Change-Up to be—as noted above—surprisingly mean-spirited and angry, not to mention unfunny. I watched this in a roomful of people who didn’t want to look one another in the eye after the film wrapped, and we’re the same crew that really enjoyed that screening of A Serbian Film I held the other day. Turns out, there is something that’ll offend me, and it ain’t “newborn porn”: it’s watching gifted comedic actors—directed by a reasonably talented director of comedies—acting out a lame, unfunny script.
The Blu-ray comes fully-stacked, with an entire deleted scene (!), what the cover-box calls a “hilarious gag reel”, a featurette on the making of the film, a commentary, and a few other odds-and-ends you’ll never get around to watching if you pick up the film. The Change-Up is a massive misfire for all involved (poor Alan Arkin), a comedy that deserves to be forgotten and avoided by anyone who professes to be a fan of the genre. Here’s the one positive thing I’ll say in the Blu-ray’s defense: as with any Universal release, the picture and audio quality are fantastic. The rest? Total waste of time, money, talent, and whatever Blu-rays and their cases are made of.
My grade? D