Monday, 22 October 2012

Film Review | The Change-Up (2011)

Without two such likeable and talented leads as Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, The Change-Up feels in many ways like the kind of fantasy-meets-reality comedy that could have easily ended up in direct-to-DVD oblivion. And without such wild variation in tone and style of humour, it's a film that also feels like it could have been somewhat more than what it is. Not a great deal more, but enough to raise it up to something a little more worthwhile than the finished product we have.

Reynolds and Bateman play best friends Mitch Planko and Dave Lockwood, a layabout actor enjoying the single life and a stressed-out lawyer and family man respectively. After urinating in a fountain on a drunken night out, with each man proclaiming to be envious of the other's life, Mitch and Dave wake up to find themselves having swapped both lives and bodies, leading to the friends discovering how the other truly lives.

Without question, the two male leads are the best thing about The Change-Up. Both Reynolds' and Bateman's performances throughout are enjoyable with pleasing comic timing, charisma and chemistry. The body-swap concept is hardly original, but both actors make it work by adopting the mannerisms of both characters ably and believably. It's just a shame that for the first hour of the film, the pair are given little more to do than whine (as Dave) or spout obscenities (as Mitch). Whilst Dave is perfectly amicable, if a bit of a wet blanket, Mitch is - for the first hour at least - a completely unlikeable creation. Abrasive, arrogant and offensive, it's hard to see why Dave is actually friends with him.

It's this ill-advised approach to getting laughs in the first half that is one of the film's major problems. We're treated to a combination of gross-out humour and extreme slapstick (at one point involving kitchen knives, plug sockets and Dave's infant children) which feels at odds with the film's overriding message. Imagine a cross between American Pie and Mr. Bean played out by middle class American thirty-somethings and you're getting close to both the content and how successful it is. More often than not the humour just feels clunky and awkward.

Thankfully, things even out in the second half. The offensive content is toned down giving Reynolds and Bateman the chance to shine a little more naturally, and the film finds an enjoyable groove through which to ride out both the plot and its message. It's nothing spectacular, but if the film had settled on something along these lines for the entire running time the whole thing would have turned out better. As it is, this is uneven with far too many flaws to truly recommend it.


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