In The Change-Up, hard-working lawyer and father Dave (Jason Bateman) and his best pal and professional slacker Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) wish they were each other while peeing in a public fountain after a night out drinking. For a moment, the city lights black out. It’s like the screen is winking at the audience, because everyone knows what comes next.
Sure enough, Dave and Mitch roll out of their beds the next day and comically realize their wish has come true. It was probably inevitable that bromance would meet the body-swapping flick. The surprise, perhaps, is that The Change-Up is such a foul-mouthed affair.
Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin and The Hangover co-writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore certainly try their darnedest to ensure The Change-Up steers clear of the family-friendly vibe typically associated with its premise. Before Reynolds gets to dazzle us with the first of his many profanity-heavy speeches, for instance, Bateman gets a mouthful of projectile baby poo. Freaky, yes, but definitely not Freaky Friday.
Despite the swearing, the raunchy humour and even a pair of knife-throwing babies, however, the movie can’t help but move toward the same heart-warming conclusion as predecessors like Like Father, Like Son, Vice Versa and 18 Again! In these movies, the “swappers” are from different generations and spend most of their time apart, gaining a deeper appreciation of each other. And the swap scenario typically plays out over one day filled with kooky comedy.
But in The Change-Up, Dave and Mitch discover it will take three to 30 days before they can learn the whereabouts of the magic fountain, which has been removed for restoration. This frees them up to live in each other’s skin, which requires them to consult frequently on such topics as baby care and booty calls.
The filmmakers take advantage of this indefinite time span and cram the film with too many subplots. It takes forever just to get the guys to the fountain. Then of course there’s the awkward early days, during which the friends insult each other’s sexual partners and threaten each other’s careers (Dave is shepherding a major corporate merger, while Mitch, an aspiring actor, has been cast in a soft-porn film).
Far too gradually, they begin to enjoy the rhythm of each other’s daily life. So much so that when it’s time for the movie to wrap up – because they find out where the fountain is – Dave and Mitch agree they both want to hold on for a bit longer.
The Change-Up is made more tolerable by Bateman and Reynolds, who squeeze more laughs out of the screenplay than it deserves. And Reynolds is particularly impressive playing Dave in Mitch’s body – he makes you believe the silly ruse, whereas Bateman merely adjusts the likable character he always plays. Rounding out the cast, Leslie Mann ( Knocked Up) plays yet another high-strung, whiny wife and mother easily given to tears. And Olivia Wilde plays a beautiful lawyer with a rocking body who likes getting tattoos, drinking strong liquor and watching baseball.
While there’s some decent fun to be had in this fantasy world, The Change-Up drags on so long you may need to “visit the fountain” before Dave and Mitch become themselves again.