Monday, August 8, 2011

Movie with Abe: The Change-Up

The Change-Up
Directed by David Dobkin
Released August 5, 2011

Switching bodies can be comedy gold. It’s a great opportunity to see actors try to mimic each other’s motions and antics, and while one performance is often better than the other, it’s still enjoyable to see both give it their best shot. In “The Change-Up,” overworked dad Dave (Jason Bateman) and slacker actor wannabe Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) decide to urinate in a fountain, resulting in an accidental swap. It’s an amusing idea, and in this case, the results are wild and wacky rather than grounded, which, to be fair, is only to be expected in a film like this.

“The Change-Up” is not a smart movie, relying on consistency and coherence only when it happens to be convenient for a plot development. Personality tics and important life events are quickly forgotten and then remembered again at a given instant, and no one else in the film is supposed to suspect that anything is awry with the two lead characters despite their extremely unpredictable behavior. Suspension of disbelief is paramount in this particular picture, and it’s only disappointing because the film could have been considerably better had it not strayed so far from a logical course of action.

The actors in “The Change-Up” go for broad as often as possible, aiming for big laughs instead of subtler humor. As was the case in the 1997 action thriller “Face/Off,” which involved a somewhat different and more deadly serious body swap, one character had considerably little personality before the switch. Just like that movie, that allows for more entertainment once the characters have traded places. Bateman gets to be as inappropriate and offensive as possible, while Reynolds has the opportunity to try and play down his excitable goofiness and straighten up as he does his best to play a businessman. These are hardly the best performances that Bateman and Reynolds have turned in, but they do both produce their share of laughs.

If nothing else, the actors have fun playing their parts. Leslie Mann and Olivia Wilde appear as Dave’s wife and co-worker, respectively, and while their characters do have to stick to the same sensibilities and keep plot developments in mind, they’re often just as unhinged and funny. Despite an underwhelming script and only fleeting moments of laughter, “The Change-Up” somehow arrives at a sentimental finish. It’s definitely a contrived conclusion not supported by the events of the film, though a step up from the somewhat similar sappy, rather poor ending to Adam Sandler’s “Click.” Overall, it’s a film that doesn’t much exceed its potential but is far more entertaining than it could have been or deserves to be.


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