Freaky Friday (1976), It’s a Boy Girl Thing (2006) (hey, it was on Netflix), Like Father Like Son (1987), it’s been done. Why is that so important to people? There was a time where people would go to see a movie every once in a while and it was a big treat. Then, every movie had to be special because the only alternative was the mediocre back catalog available on television (with ad breaks) through the 1960’s. By the 1980’s there was VHS. Now, you can go online and watch movies cheaply and instantly or buy them for less than a movie ticket. Thus, there are thousands of movies available to you and your only priority (as a consumer) should be to watch what is good. What else did you have planned?
Mitch (originally Ryan Reynolds) is an unsuccessful actor that swears a lot. How he pays for things isn’t quite clear. Dave (originally Jason Bateman), on the other hand, is a successful M&A lawyer at a firm with an absurd academic pedigree. He’s married to the beautiful Jamie (Leslie Mann) and has three lovely children. He works with Sabrina (Olivia Wilde) who is gorgeous and smart. The grass is always greener and, whilst re-filling the fountain with their kidney juice, they wish for the other’s life. They get their wish and things aren’t quite as green as they thought.
The Change-Up (2011) is very naughty. I saw Bateman say that this is the R-rated body-switch movie. When I saw that it had these two guys, I was instantly interested. But the more I watched the previews the less and less interested I got. I saw a Farrelly Brothers movie in the offing. Not my cup of tea. Apatow, yes, Farrelly, no. And, after seeing The Hangover Part II (2011), I wasn’t exactly psyched by the credit “the writers of The Hangover [(2009)]” Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Nor was I big on their other pedigree chum, the “director of The Wedding Crashers [(2005)],” David Dobkin.
I wasn’t saying that people shouldn’t be cautious of movies with stock premises. They should. But they should be cautious of laziness. It’s not “Oh, they’re just substituting Jason Bateman for Jodie Foster” it’s “Oh, they’re just substituting Jason Bateman for Jodie Foster.” They have to show that they took the job seriously and carried out the promise of a strong foundation. I think I am pretty safe in saying that this is not just a plug and play.
For one thing, this is not about living in someone else’s body in order to understand and respect a different point of view. The rationale of the story is that living someone else’s life helps you to understand your own. At the end of the movie, there aren’t huge revelations that make Mitch want to realize his dream of being a Shakespearean actor or Dave really wanting to do pro-bono. It’s a familiar foundation, but it isn’t trite. It’s sweet but not sacrin.
Reynolds and Bateman are proven talents. I don’t think anyone suspected that they would be a weakness. The greatest danger always lies in tonal shifts from the bawdy to thoughtful in order to make serious points, but these come off with ease. Personally, I like to see more of them in a comedy than the three we get in this movie, but it isn’t my movie, it’s there’s. Mann, usually a shrill anti-conscience, is the dramatic…not anchor, that’s the wrong connotation…mooring for the movie. She’s far more subtle and human than I’ve seen in any of her other movies. I now take her more seriously (despite the divestment, which I usually take to be the beginning of the end for an actress).
The mainstay of this movie is Mitch (as Dave) being an absolutely terrible father and husband. He goes about saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, and basically being horrible. The dialogue is in the free and dirty style of today that plays so close to the nonsensical that I can only admire. It’s hilarious. I actually stood up so that I could fall down laughing. I do that sometimes when I’m watching a movie by myself—an enormous perk of the practice.
This was a solid effort. It’s primary, secondary, and tertiary goals of being funny, humorous, and hysterical were accomplished. Its quaternary goal of striking a serious tone gets a B. The final reel was mostly fine, the major revelations were good, but the deal with Mitch’s father was inartful. Mitch’s problems with his father (which seem to be (a) dad’s many marriages and (b) Mitch’s lack of confidence) didn’t seem to be reflected in Alan Arkin’s character. He didn’t seem like he had a playboy past or was anything other than a parent trying to get closer to his son. He had to be something other than that for the story to seem true.
This is a good one, worth streaming. Owning? Once it’s in a three pack with Horrible Bosses (2011) and The Switch (2010) for $10. Is that too elaborate a metaphor? Is that even a metaphor? Who’s got the metaphor? What’s the meta for? Joey’s got to fill da meeta for an ‘owa. A simile’s simple as can be, it’s the top as to analogy. But if I am true, which I’m careful to do, the metaphor’s harder to see.