DIRECTED BY DAVID DOBKIN
STARRING: JASON BATEMAN, RYAN REYNOLDS, LESLIE MANN, OLIVIA WILDE, SYDNEY ROUVIERE, MIRCEA MONROE and ALAN ARKIN
How can a film hold close to a throwaway premise as this? David Dobkin’s (‘Clay Pigeons’, ‘Wedding Crashers’) latest offering ‘the Change-Up’ is written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the duo behind the vehemently anti-social ‘the Hangover’. If the two had us hooked by well-timed wit and a sprig of inventiveness in an otherwise cacophonous storyline, they atone for every good moment rendered in the predecessor with a distinctive, engorged anti-thesis in ‘the Change-Up’. Similarities fail to evoke nostalgia, familiarity goes beyond contempt to instigate a higher measure of repulsion and a shout out loud of “can it possibly get worse?” only to find oneself lost for words and comprehensively outlasted.
The writers are relentless with their efforts to gross-out the viewer, it could have helped if they weren’t as visible. Where’s the joke when you figure it’s shit on your spoon at about a half a mile away with an hour of caution in between? The worst this film could do to me is make sure I watched till the end with nothing promising, nothing new, nothing even remotely close to rating it watchable. We saw shades of characters being demeaned without reason in Dobkin’s ‘Wedding Crashers’, but the film still survived on the shoulders of actors who were mature enough to keep the plot interesting along with their own reputations. Both Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman here behave like they don’t have any. They’re like actors on vacation, roleplaying every second, swearing like it’s a contest. The interchange of roles is supposed to be an actor’s dream, but here it’s just a bunch of cons. I tried to rationalize casting choices for Dave Lockwood and Mitch Planko at different stages of the film. Perhaps Bateman suits the emotional realizations while Reynolds does better with the climactic kiss, but I wasn’t entirely convinced with my pet theory – I couldn’t get beyond the fact that this was yet another casting stereotype. Leslie Mann plays her usual version of a wife with a bit of a hike on unwarranted toplessness. And as is the case with any other body-swap film, her Jamie is completely oblivious to the same. But at least the writers had sense enough to make fun of it than leave yet another detail on top of a hard-to-digest pile.
‘the Change-Up’ is stupid enough to not be questioned, but too outrageous to be ignored. It’s like a montage of all infamous sequences (and by that I do not mean ‘dubiously famous’) from ‘the Hangover’, but aggravated to cruel extents. An accidental bang of door gets as vile as repetitive self-infliction, exhibitionism gets a disgraceful new high with the tiger replaced by a packed-to-burst shopping mall and profanity is home-schooled in a carefully-nurtured environment of violence. One could be relieved that it’s rated ‘R’, but it would only deprive the film of its actual audience – a world that knows nothing but ‘hoes’, ‘shows’ and ‘preggos’.
A good R-rated comedy keeps it clean, a bad one tries not to and fails. It’s the crappy ones that belittle the entire idea of adult humour to a capsule of sickness that only preteens can swallow. ‘the Change-Up’ is a kind of a bad comedy in crappy attire, where the outside stinks of juvenile excess while the inside rots of emptiness. Insincerity such as this should either not be made or should be made fun of. To venture otherwise is simply futile.