The Change-Up opens with a shot of diaper fodder straight to the gullet and ends with a tender moment between two lifelong pals -- effectively continuing the contemporary, Apatow-inspired trend of melding gross-out comedy with endearing drama. Of course, with Wedding Crashers already a standout title on his resume, director David Dobkin has indeed displayed talent for delivering a raunchy punchline. But when it comes to The Change-Up, whether or not you’ll find yourself in stitches largely depends on your tolerance for Ryan Reynolds’ uber-douche personality, and -- to a larger extent -- Jason Bateman offering his best imitation thereof.
Dave (Bateman) and Mitch (Reynolds) grew up together. They used to be inseparable, but these days they're lucky if they cross paths every few months. Dave is a successful lawyer and happily married father of three; Mitch is a single sexual dynamo locked in a perpetual state of arrested adolescence. While Mitch admires Dave for having a gorgeous wife (Leslie Mann), happy kids, and a high-paying job, Dave envies his unhitched pal's freewheeling lifestyle and his ability to bed any woman who shoots him a seductive glance. Then one night, after having a few too many, Mitch and Dave voice their mutual admiration for one another, never once suspecting they might literally be about to find out how the other half lives. However, upon waking up the following morning, the two disparate friends discover that they have somehow traded places. At first, the thought of getting a momentary reprieve from their regular routines is an amusing novelty, but the longer it lasts, the more they just want their old lives back. Just when it seems that things can't get any more complicated, Dave's stunning legal associate Sabrina (Olivia Wilde) drops a bombshell, and Mitch gets a surprise visit from his estranged father (Alan Arkin).
Back in the 1980s, it seemed like you couldn’t walk into a movie theater or look at cable TV listings without running across 18 Again!, Vice Versa, or Like Father, Like Son. Penned by Hangover screenwriters Scott Moore and Jon Lucas, The Change-Up updates the familiar “body swap” concept for a grown-up audience by giving it a vulgar edge and contrasting the lives of an arrested adolescent with a devoted family man and professional instead of the traditional older/younger exchange. And you’ve got to give them credit for trying; hardly a minute goes by in The Change-Up without some crude sight gag befouling our eyes or inventive profanity teasing our cochleas. With a subplot concerning the hardships of marriage and parenthood, there’s no questioning that the writers have strived to give the film some much-needed heart: scenes of Mitch (in Dave’s body) struggling with the messy peculiars of fatherhood are exaggerated for maximum comic effect yet still manage to capture the daily stresses of raising a family and also maintaining a career, while the contrasting scenes of Dave (in Mitch’s body) pondering the prospects of being single again take the comedy in a lighter direction until the film’s heartfelt climax.
For the Ryan Reynolds fan, The Change-Up might just be the funniest movie ever made; for everyone else, it’s about as funny as a dirty diaper at 3 a.m.