THE CHANGE-UP (15)
THERE’S a good reason why Hollywood has been reluctant to pump millions into body-swap comedies.
Since the 1988 classic Big, which saw Tom Hanks wishing himself to adulthood, the genre has failed to engage audiences, apart perhaps from the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday pairing Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Even High School Musical pin-up Zac Efron couldn’t polish a tarnished dramatic conceit in the 2009 high school comedy 17 Again.
The Change-Up continues the losing streak, asking us to believe that a workaholic family man and a bed-hopping slacker would honestly want to swap lives thanks to the magical intervention of an enchanted fountain statue.
We don’t believe the characters’ protestations of discontent or mutual envy for a second.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s script is riddled with many implausibilities.
The fountain vanishes, trapping the characters in their new bodies for several days, even though logistically it would be impossible for a construction crew to remove a large water feature in only a few hours.
Moreover, in order for the heroes to learn valuable lessons about their failings, they are party to heartfelt confessions that their alter-bodies would never overhear.
Overworked lawyer Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) is on the verge of securing the vice presidency at his firm. Dedication to his job has dulled his marriage to wife Jamie (Leslie Mann) and taken him away from his three children, including daughter Cara (Sydney Rouviere).
In stark contrast, Dave’s best friend Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) is a fast-talking, jobbing actor, who ricochets from one meaningless sexual encounter to the next.
“The only dancing that Uncle Mitch likes involves a pole and a broken woman with daddy issues,” he grins when Cara invites him to her ballet recital.
One drunken night, the two bemoan their lots and loudly proclaim ‘I wish I had your life’ as they urinate in a fountain.
The next morning Dave and Mitch are trapped in each other’s bodies and have no obvious way to change back.
So Mitch as Dave must complete a multi-million-dollar contract negotiation and Dave as Mitch must star in an adult film directed by Valtan (Craig Bierko) and woo legal colleague Sabrina (Olivia Wilde).
The Change-Up was penned by the duo responsible for The Hangover and that film’s brand of filthy-minded lunacy spatters across every frame of David Dobkin’s fitful fantasy.
Bateman and Reynolds have far more fun mimicking each other’s mannerisms than we have watching them and the sentiment of the final frames is cloying.
Mann and Wilde are poorly served and it defies belief that two smart women would overlook dramatic changes in the men in their lives.
Only one character learns anything from his bizarre ordeal.
For 112 minutes, we begrudgingly share their pain.
STAR RATING: **