In 1988, a movie came out starring Fred Savage (The Wonder Years) and Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop) called Vice Versa. It was a cheeseball family comedy about a father and son that both touch a magic skull at the same time and end up switching bodies. I loved it when I first saw it, but I was also 8-years-old. In 2011, a movie came out starring Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses, Juno) and Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, The Proposal) called The Change-Up. It's a raunchy adult comedy about two best friends that pee in a magic fountain at the same time and end up switching bodies. I probably would have loved this more when I was 8-years-old too.
I personally admire both Bateman and Reynolds. They're not only very attractive guys, but they have stellar comedic timing and are fun to watch in movies, even if they play almost the same character in most of them. And I won't take away their noble, if not also failing, attempt to make this movie as funny as they could.
Sadly the fault of failure falls on the shoulders of the writers, who were the guys behind The Hangover movies and director David Dobkin who has Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus and Shanghai Noon to his credit. Perhaps they consider it a feather in their cap that they feature the first movie with a CGI baby's assh**e and the gorgeous Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin) topless for the first time. But as far as quality filmmaking goes, they should be ashamed. It's further proof to me that I was right in that The Hangover was a fluke comedy that was given more credit than it deserved and was far funnier than the writers were capable of doing.
For starters, almost every joke in The Change-Up is visible from a football field away. Nothing is surprising and therefore isn't very funny. I chuckled a few times, here and there, but when you have Bateman and Reynolds at your disposal...you better make my belly shake. Second, it's one of the most unoriginal concepts I've seen in a very long time...rivaled possibly by The Hangover Part II. If you're gonna rip off 90% of your plot from a film from the '80s, don't insult some of us and just make it a remake. And my biggest problem with the movie was that the characters were wildly undefined. If I switched bodies with my best friend from childhood, I would NEVER EVER put his children at danger, try to bang his wife and ruin his entire career. That's precisely what happens in The Change-Up. It's not funny to watch because you don't get the impression that these two guys care about each other in the slightest! That's a crucial point for the story to work. To top it all off, the movie tries to be a Judd Apatow film in that it starts to be important and pretends to have something to say about what's really important in life but all of that comes across forced, despite a great performance from Mann.
The Change-Up tries to be a little bit of everything to everyone and ends up being not very funny and full of holes and flops. The good news is that it won't hurt Bateman or Reynolds in their reputation for knocking comedy out of the park; the bad news is it makes Vice Versa look like a masterpiece to me again.
The Change-Up (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D