Body-switch movie delivers some laughs but regresses into adolescent behavior and telegraphs every move.
Other than Big in 1988 and the two Freaky Friday films, body-switching comedies rarely pan out. All those plot mechanics and far-out magic, just to deliver a foregone conclusion that the grass isn't necessarily greener … yada, yada, yada. The Change-Up bravely attempts to revive the dormant subgenre, but it's a lame effort that grows increasingly frantic and foul-mouthed as the realization sets in that the gimmick isn't working.
With Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, the lovely Leslie Mann and current "It" girl Olivia Wilde co-starring, the Universal film should enjoy a solid opening and might wind up with the positive box-office numbers of Bateman's other R-rated comedy this summer, Horrible Bosses.
What entertainment the film offers is familiar and inevitable. Audiences can anticipate every plot turn, and the outcome is never in doubt. The fun, if you will, lies in seeing Reynolds and Bateman play each other's characters in the wrong body, fouling up their respective lives.
If they met today, Mitch (Reynolds) and Dave (Bateman) would never strike up a friendship. But they grew up together, and though they also grew apart -- hugely apart -- the bond sticks. Mitch is a man-child frat boy who refuses to mature. He claims to be an actor, but this clearly isn't a lucrative pursuit. Dave is an overachiever, a hardworking attorney closing in on a partnership with a grand home in Atlanta, an adoring wife, Jamie (Mann), and three great kids -- though infant twins assure him of steady sleeplessness.
During a night of inebriated revelry, the boys do what needs to get done in a body-switching comedy: Each grows envious of the other's life. Mitch longs for a loving family and stable career, and Dave realizes he has missed out on the "drugs, sex and bad choices."
While urinating into a public fountain late that night, they wish they could switch lives, and the fountain grants the wish. The following day, Mitch (as Dave) wakes up next to Jamie, and Dave (as Mitch) awakens amid the rubble and takeout food strewn about Mitch's bachelor digs.
Panic ensues as the two desperately try to fit into bewildering new lifestyles. Mitch takes over high-stakes merger talks with a Japanese firm that blow sky-high when he clearly knows nothing about the deal and insults the other side. Dave finds himself acting, all right -- in a porn film.
Each does discover compensation in his new life: Mitch is aroused by Dave's incredibly sexy colleague, Sabrina (Wilde); Dave, once he extricates himself from the porno, finds he actually has time to read a book and visit the aquarium.
The film engineers scenes in which the men learn what people really think about them as well as situations that prompt re-examination of values. But writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore never find a way to make these predictable developments funny. Their overused escape route is wildly inappropriate behavior and potty-mouths.
That irresponsible Mitch would demean women and endanger children's lives is perhaps understandable. But that Ivy League grad Dave would emulate his immature pal defies credibility. And as the writers grow increasingly insecure about their dialogue, situations and characters, the F-bombs multiply and the juvenilia escalates.
David Dobkin, who deserves credit for instigating the modern R-rated comedy with Wedding Crashers in 2005, aims for a similar vibe by directing scenes as broadly as possible while enrolling his male stars in the Jerry Lewis School of Overacting. But Crashers had a unique premise and original characters; Change-Up suffers from a trite story and rote personalities. It even wastes one of the best comic actors alive, Alan Arkin, in a throwaway role as Mitch's perturbed dad.
Release date Aug. 5 (Universal)
Cast Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin
Director David Dobkin
Producers Neal Moritz, David Dobkin
Rated R, 112 minutes