While watching the trailer for The Change-Up, it never occurred to me the movie wouldn’t suck. But then I went to see it as a palate cleanser after sitting through something I’ve long since forgotten. And I ended up loving it. Palate not only cleansed, but delighted!
The first thing that makes The Change-Up work as more than just a throwaway body-switch movie is how invested Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds are. I’ve seen them each coast through movies that were obviously paychecks, most recently in Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern. But that’s not the case here. They’re both totally on board, totally energetic, and totally committed to the gimmick of playing each other. Which might seem like an unremarkable feat given that they’re both brown-haired charismatic leading men with good senses of humor. But give the script credit for drawing its beleaguered family man and devil-may-care bachelor with enough room for Bateman and Reynolds to bring their own contributions to the table.
Also thoroughly invested is Leslie Mann, but that’s no surprise. She’s routinely far better than a movie deserves. Knocked Up comes to mind. Her “I like Spider-Man, too” line has more heart than everything else in that movie combined. And she was the perfect emotional fulcrum in Funny People. She serves a similar role here. And should I mention that she’s incredibly hot and incredibly naked in The Change-Up? Emotionally, I mean. I think there’s also nudity, but I mean that she’s, you know, uh, emotionally naked. The Change-Up earns its obligatory redemption scene — this is, after all, a studio comedy — by letting Mann’s character react in a realistic and honest way. The Change-Up may have a stupid premise, but it doesn’t have stupid characters. One of my favorite scenes of 2011 is when Reynolds and Bateman decide they’re going to sit down and explain everything to Mann, who plays Bateman’s wife. It’s well written, funny, and features all three actors doing some nice subtle stuff.
You also have to give the script props for exploring things most kid-friendly body-switch movies would conveniently ignore. I’ll let you use your imagination on that point, because the writers certainly did. Suffice to say, this is a very R-rated movie from the same guys who made the original Hangover so R-rated. And not just the language and nudity. I don’t think babies playing with blenders is allowed in PG-13 comedies.
The Change-Up is out on DVD and VOD this week.