Cast: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin
Director: David Dobkin
This summer, we’ve reached a crisis point in the American comedy: why can’t Jason Bateman get promoted or laid?
The summer comedies are stocked with middle-aged men who dream of having sex but never do. That’s a healthy sign for marriage, I suppose. But if you’re a married dad who secretly wishes he could spread the seed again, do you want to spend $10 to go watch a movie about another guy who can’t, either? Where’s the fantasy? Where’s the edge? Face it, this has been one long, scalding summer of “Whatever you do, do not make me have sex with the babysitter!”
So the infidelity comedy has become the fidelity comedy, and other than the audience, no one seems to get the short end of the stick – so to speak – as often as Bateman. He is the only guy in Horrible Bosses who doesn’t receive an explicit come-on from Jennifer Aniston. A couple of years ago in Extract, he got Mila Kunis into a hotel room where he …. promptly fell asleep.
In The Change Up, he plays a lawyer and family man who switches bodies with his irresponsible best friend, a womanizer having a hard time kicking off his acting career— probably because he has made the ill-advised career choice of living in Atlanta.
Disembodied from the ball and chain, the family lawyer gets to sleep in, smoke pot and figure out reasons not to have sex with Olivia Wilde. The womanizer takes on family responsibility that he knows nothing about, a legal career that he knows nothing about, and a tricky marriage to Leslie Mann (a gifted comic actress with a weird attraction to movies with recycled television plots.).
The question about The Change-Up – who is sitting around Hollywood thinking, “What this world needs is another body-switching movie?” And who is sitting around Hollywood thinking, “You know who I have always wanted to see switch bodies – Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds!” I once knew a girl without any artistic taste. She thought that the live-action Rocky and Bullwinkle movie “was going to rock.” And even she thought body-switching plots were stupid.
There are two ways that this most tired television plot could have any chance of being worthwhile. One way is to do it with two well-established and opposite screen personalities. It might be enjoyable to watch this plot with, say, DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman in their prime.
The other possibility is the arty one – have the characters excel in their new lives. The characters find they’re better being the other person than they are at being themselves. Their spouses are completely satisfied. The people around them like them better. Then you create interesting questions about what our identity really means to us.
You know you’re not going to find that type of soul searching in a movie that starts with a father of twins taking incoming fire while changing diapers. While Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin launched the R-rated comedy wave, that the only launch that The Change-Up is likely to make.