The Change-Up review

In 1882, F.Anstey wrote Vice Versa, the first body swap fantasy story in which a schoolboy and his father change places after contact with a magic stone. There are, inevitably, hilarious consequences but more than that, the two characters learn to understand each other better and become better people. In the ensuing 129 years, numerous books and films have re-used the concept with varying degrees of success – Disney have made Freaky Friday three times they like it so much.

So does a modern equivalent have anything new to say? Well, yes and no, more of which later. Dave (Bateman – good name that) is a superstar lawyer, about to make partner, and seems to have it all; beautiful wife Jamie (Mann), three kids and a huge house in suburban Atlanta. His childhood friend Mitch (Reynolds) is a jobless layabout with no discernible income aside from some vague attempts to get work as an actor but to Dave, he is living the dream. One drunken night they are not careful what they wish for and after urinating in a fountain wake up the next day in each other’s bodies and all that that entails. Mitch has to be a lawyer, Dave has to do ‘lorno’ (you’ll see) and Jamie has to cope with her ‘new’ husband.

For a film that begins with a baby poop gag – literally – The Change-Up actually does pretty well to stay the right side of tasteful. Sure there are some genitalia jokes, nudity and profanity but it always serves a purpose to develop storyline or reveal character. There are some satisfyingly good one-liners and when there aren’t laughs it’s because the writers don’t want there to be, not because the gags fall flat.

Because despite the broad nature of the comedy, there are some real issues being dealt with here. Jamie is distraught that her marriage isn’t what she expected and Dave even more so when he discovers this. Mitch and Dave go through the whole gamut of emotions as they discover that while sometimes the grass is greener, more often it’s not. Thirty-somethings and beyond will probably relate to this more than the younger generation on an emotional level.

That’s not to say The Change-Up has any great pretensions. This is, after all, a fantasy and for the most part doesn’t take itself at all seriously. But what makes it work is not only the sharp script but also the two lead performances. Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds do an excellent job of playing each other’s parts and so although you know exactly where it’s headed, that they’re learning a valuable life lesson and you’ve seen this all a hundred times before, it works because despite their flaws you’re rooting for them. Fun, funny and fundamentally with its heart in the right place, despite being a tad too long, The Change-Up is far better than it has any right to be.

Official Site
The Change-Up at IMDb

Justin Bateman is a Screenjabber contributor

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