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Richard Cartwright/Universal Studios

The Change-Up

Movies | Unfortunately, the lessons learned by the characters are practically lost in the R-rated filth

Issue: "Back to School," Aug. 27, 2011

Raunchy films with conservative values have been all the rage recently, most notably Judd Apatow's pro-life Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which promotes abstinence until marriage. Following in that vein is The Change-Up, though with a much higher ratio of raunch to values than its predecessors.

Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) and Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) have been best friends since childhood, but while Dave has become a successful lawyer with a beautiful family, Mitch has embraced adultescence. Each envies the other, and after they both openly wish they had the other's life, à la Freaky Friday, they wake up the next morning in each other's bodies.

Body-change comedies are excellent vehicles for teaching the protagonists valuable lessons about themselves and their body-switch partners, and The Change-Up succeeds on that front. Married men and women would appreciate Dave's realization of how very much he loves his family, and his implicit warning to the irresponsible Mitch that his wife "Jamie and the kids mean everything to me."

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Both Bateman and Reynolds deliver fine performances against type, though Reynolds has the more difficult, and thus more impressive, job of channeling the reserved and conflicted married man into the natural intensity that is one of his strengths as an actor. Leslie Mann (Judd Apatow's real-life wife) offers up another stellar comedic turn as Dave's wife.

Sadly, screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover) have mired their story in so much profanity, gratuitous nudity, and disgusting dialogue that the lessons Dave and Mitch learn are practically lost in the R-rated filth. The film even stoops to include a pornographic film shoot that it attempts to play for laughs with severely offensive humor.

One of Ronald Reagan's favorite stories was that of the incurable optimist, the boy who plowed his way through a pile of manure, convinced that a pony had to be in there somewhere. If the viewer wades through The Change-Up long enough to find the toy pony buried in its excrement, I would recommend taking a shower immediately afterward. Use Lava.

Listen to Michael Leaser discuss The Change Up on The World and Everything in It.

Michael Leaser
Michael Leaser

Michael is editor of FilmGrace and an associate of The Clapham Group.

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