Review of “The Change-Up”

HollywoodNews.com: I’m not going to do a full-on review, but there are a few things I’d like to touch on. First of all, the film isn’t nearly as bad as many other critics seem to believe, nor is the film nearly as lurid or distasteful as its been advertised (I rather hate the above-poster, but there were no other one-sheet designs to choose from).

In terms of what it’s about, it’s actually a classical western, in that it primarily concerns the struggle between untamed freedom and orderly civilization. The film is not as crass as ‘gee, I’m shackled to a family while my friend gets to run around boning chicks’. At its best, the David Dobkin picture hints at a simpler truth: that there are pluses and minuses to every sort of life we choose. What makes the picture work better that it ought to is that the screenplay by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas (who also wrote the smarter-then-expected Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) gets at the heart of the matter: Two best friends, one with everywhere to be but no time to be there, while the other has all the time in the world and nowhere to be.

Had the film truly focused on that conundrum, it might have been something special. Just like Date Night could have been a genuine triumph with less emphasis on the caper/thriller aspects of its narrative, The Change-Up is nearly undone by its need to be an R-rated raunch-fest. As a result, the film is a near non-stop parade of f-bombs and scatological talk. I have no objection to such material, but since 80% of said content is delivered by the character of Mitch Blanko (technically Ryan Reynolds, but in the body of Jason Bateman’s Dave Lockwood after the first reel), the film ends up stuck with one half of the star duo who is an inexplicably obnoxious and heartily unsympathetic jerk.

More importantly, to meet the film’s ‘extreme humor’ quota, we often see ‘Mitch’ acting in a genuinely unrealistic manner (swearing at his friends’ kids, sexually harassing a female associate, interrupting a dance recital, etc) to those around him. As a result, we get the idea that Mitch is not only a promiscuous slacker, but that he lacks even basic social skills and behavioral restraints. Point being, had the film not felt the burden of ‘earning’ its R-rating, the very things that weigh the film down (Mitch’s cringe-worthy behavior towards characters we like and/or care about) would have been severely limited.

Photo by Universal Pictures

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