The Change-Up

THE CHANGE-UP. Starring Olivia Wilde, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Mircea Monroe, Alan Arkin, Anna Colwell, Andrea Moore. Directed by David Dobkin. MA 15+ (Strong sexual references, sex scenes, coarse language and nudity). 112 minutes.

With the advertising tagline, ‘From the director of The Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover’, one would think that more than enough consumer information was offered for discerning filmgoers.  The tagline is not false advertising.

For a while, over several decades, there was a series of comedies where two characters took each other’s personality while still looking their original selves.  These tended to be father-son changes (Like Father, Like Son or Vice Versa) or mother-daughter changes (Freaky Friday).  This time it is two middle aged men.  One is a very successful married lawyer with children (Jason Bateman doing his now familiar thing as the put-upon businessman) and the other is an irresponsible womanising loser (Ryan Reynolds doing what he used to do in crass comedies like Waiting, Buying the Cow or Van Wilder, Party Liaison).

We know where we stand (or where we sit).  There are lots of situations which we might have thought up had we been asked to write a screenplay.  The loser has to become responsible (not very good at it at all, goofing in the office and cavalier with feeding crying babies during the night...).  Ryan Reynolds is a good enough actor to be able to do both incarnations of his character.  Not so sure about Jason Bateman being let loose (and he is tempted to become quite loose at times).  Even acting irresponsibly, he is not quite credible or persuasive.

There are some funny sequences as you might imagine (and Alan Arkin turns up as the loser’s father).  I am indebted to reviewer Tom Ryan of The Sunday Age for providing me with an adjective for this review and for future use.  There certainly are some crass moments and jokes, but a lot of it is more basic, bodily functions and pooping babies etc.  The word for this kind of humour and treatment is ‘tacky’.

It’s an American comedy of middle age and, as usual, with Judd Apatow comedies and the like, there is traditional moralising at the end. (And Jason Bateman’s wife is actually played by Leslie Mann who is the real Mrs Apatow.)

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Out September 8 2011.

Universal Pictures

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