Body-swap comedy The Change-Up gets off to a terribly unfunny start when Jason Bateman takes a mouthful of baby poop while changing a diaper. This scatological nightmare is the worst scene in a film that works very hard to be vulgar but is very rarely clever about it. Bateman and co-star Ryan Reynolds are likeable guys, and barely save Director David Dobkin's film from collapsing under the weight of its worst gags. This Judd Apatow knockoff lacks the wit and weight of the films it tries to emulate, and were it not for the pairing of its two leads, The Change-Up would be as forgettable as its title.
Lawyer Dave Lockwood (Bateman) is close to making partner at a big firm, but shortchanges his wife, Jamie (Leslie Mann), and three children. Dave's longtime buddy Mitch Planko (Reynolds) has no steady job, and instead prefers to hit the bong and bed swarms of women. During a night of heavy drinking, Dave and Mitch realize that each envies the other's life. When the pair stops to take a piss in a fountain guarded by a watchful statue, lightning strikes and the city goes momentarily dark. Cut to the next morning when Dave and Mitch awaken inside each other's bodies. Cue the high jinks.
Body-switch comedies are nothing new: See Big, Freaky Friday and The Hot Chick if you want to experience genre entries of varying quality. Such films often see the protagonists struggle to maintain an alternate lifestyle, and The Change-Up is no different. Dave has been wound tightly for years, and Mitch's lothario lifestyle is enough to trigger a nervous breakdown. Mitch knows nothing about lawyering, and his typical apathy carries over to Dave's firm job, where he puts an important merger in jeopardy. Mitch also sees his predicament as a chance to pursue Dave's associate, Sabrina (Olivia Wilde), and he threatens to sleep with Jamie if Dave doesn't behave.
I'm all for a good R-rated comedy, and The Change-Up easily earns its stripes with constant profanity, random nudity and gags about Skinemax porno and breastfeeding. Unfortunately, many of these jokes are placed more for shock value than laughs. So much of the comedy in The Change-Up feels forced, and scenes like the opening and an ill-advised gag about Mitch's pregnant suitor are embarrassing. Dobkin's excellent Wedding Crashers seems like an anomaly for the filmmaker, whose directorial slate also includes Shanghai Knights and Fred Claus. What saves the film is its two leads, and I found myself laughing at some unexpected moments, like when Jamie scolds not-Dave for mispronouncing their daughter's name and a bit where Mitch counsels Dave's eldest daughter on the benefits of using violence to solve problems.
The Change-Up is rather long for a broad comedy and clocks in at nearly two hours, but, despite its middling quality, the film actually rolls by quite easily. If Apatow-staple Mann wasn't enough to draw comparisons, The Change-Up pours on the sentimentality in the final act. The film begs you to feel sorry for Mitch because he feels inferior to Dave and has a cold father (Alan Arkin), and it chastises Dave for putting his career before his family. Mann has the most successful dramatic scenes, as she really gets the short end of the stick from her husband and Mitch. The Change-Up is definitely not a good movie, and the material is probably well below Bateman and Reynolds. Somehow these two were convinced to sign on, and they save the film from an unfunny death.
Universal continues to churn out reference-quality Blu-rays for its recent releases, and The Change-Up looks fantastic. The disc actually features two separate 1080p transfers for the theatrical and unrated cuts, and each is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Oddly, the theatrical cut uses the AVC codec, while the unrated cut uses the VC-1 codec. I flipped through each, and the two transfers appear to be identical. Detail is outstanding across the board, and every scene exhibits impressive texture and depth. Colors are warm and accurately saturated, and blacks are dark and inky. The Change-Up is not a grainy film, but the transfer is never less than crisp and razor sharp. I noticed no problems with compression artifacts, aliasing, noise reduction or edge enhancement. The Change-Up looks very impressive on Blu-ray.
The comedic sensibilities of The Change-Up do not lend themselves to a house-rattling soundtrack, but the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is no slouch. Dialogue is clean and well-balanced, and the track features a decent amount of directional dialogue. Comedic effects resonant well, as does ambient noise. The popular-music soundtrack is appropriately integrated, and the track is expectedly free from any hiss, feedback or other anomalies. French and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks and a 2.0 English DVS track are also available, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Universal releases The Change-Up in its typical "combo pack" style, and the set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and a downloadable digital copy that is compatible with iTunes. An embossed slipcover replicates the cover art. The disc features the theatrical cut (1:52:32) and an unrated cut (1:58:09).
Extras are light and fluffy, and include an audio commentary from Director David Dobkin, in which he tries to deflect some of the criticism dumped on the film. Time for a Change (6:53/HD) features interviews with Bateman and Reynolds, who seem convinced that the film pushes the comedic envelope with its R-rated humor. Family Matter (4:37/HD) shows how the filmmakers accomplished the film's gross opening sequence, and the gag reel (5:13/HD) is decently funny. Also included is a Fist Fight Deleted Scene (6:36/HD), in which Dave and Mitch get physical, and Universal provides the usual My Scenes Bookmarking Feature, D-Box Motion Code and BD-Live Portal.
Had all the parties involved focused a bit more on making The Change-Up clever instead of spending all their energy on slapstick gags, the film might have been funnier. Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds save what otherwise is a decidedly lackluster body-switch comedy with their easy chemistry and humor. Director David Dobkin's film wants to be a Judd Apatow dramatic comedy, but its humor is spotty and its emotions ring false. Universal's Blu-ray is technically excellent, but the extras are slim. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.