Friday, August 12, 2011

At the Movies: The Change-Up

If ever there was a movie made up of equal parts sleaze and schmaltz, then it's The Change-Up. A weird way to begin a post I know, but that's what comes to mind. Although the identity switching comedy is as old as the hills (Freaky Friday, anyone?), it remains intriguing. After all, who wouldn't want to trade places with someone else for a while, if only to find out what that person's life is like? It was this thinking (along with my love of stupid comedies, which, incidentally, requires almost no thinking) that lured me into the theater.

The Change-Up centers around best buds Dave (Jason Bateman), a family man on the fast track to law partner, and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), a playboy out-of-work actor. Their moment of reckoning comes when they pee in a public fountain one drunken night while confessing jealousy for each other's lives. The lightning crashes, the lights go out, and before they know it, they've swapped bodies.

Workaholic Dave realizes how much he misses having the time and privacy to do things like Rollerblade and use the bathroom uninterrupted. But he also learns that Mitch's life isn't all fun and games, eventually appreciating just how good he has it and how much he's been neglecting his family. Likewise, Mitch laps up the full-time attention of "people who care about his day," and the perks of an always-full fridge. Still, balancing work and family is tough for this perpetual slacker, and he longs for his freedom.

Ground-breaking it's not. But it is interesting in an introspective, "what does it all mean?" kind of way. Not that I imagine that that's the movie's message, or that it even has a message. I caught an interview in which Reynolds and Bateman were quipping that The Change-Up has lots of levels, and that you have to look deep - real deep - to get them all. To be sure, the gratuitous nudity, F-bombs, and just plain gross-out bathroom shenanigans lent the story a B-movie quality that undercut its discordant and often desperate sappiness (and made me look away - far, far away). But then, like most moviegoers, I know that the quality of movies takes a nosedive come August, the glitter of the June and July blockbusters already in the dustpan to be resurrected into DVDs and the winter holiday features still months away.

All criticism aside, it was entertaining to watch Bateman and Reynolds be catapulted into caricatures of the respectively priggish and wise-guy types they typically play only to be reeled back in to portray polar opposites. I wasn't laughing hysterically along with my fellow theater-goers, but I didn't long for my $10.00 back either.

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