Would You Change For This?
The premise is nothing new amd there are countless of films, plays and essentially stories out there that deals with a very common fantasy of having to be put literally into someone else's shoes by taking over the body, and living out his or her life in one whacked mistaken identity episode. One of my earliest films of the genre is Like Father Like Son starring Kirk Cameron, and parent-child body swap has become one of the more popular tools used to preach and revolve around uptight parents needing to loosen up, and children to understand that it's basically not easy to bring them up.
Stories where peers swap bodies, usually through a magical, fantasy sequence that got invoked without our principals knowing, until it's too late. The formula doesn't change in The Change-Up, which means if you've seen one too many films of this nature, you just about know what's in the works, where two people very opposites in nature get to undergo drastic physical change, and having to live each other's lives until they figure out a way to break the spell. In the meantime, they each learn the other's qualities which is sorely lacking in their lives, capping it all off with greater understanding of their peers, leading to stronger friendships and bonds. I haven't come across one where the story and characters ended in sheer disaster though.
The Change-Up offers a more adult premise since it's a swap between peers. Dave played by Jason Bateman is the quintessential all round nice guy with a great family, car and career to boot, being just inches away from being made partner at a law firm. His best friend Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) is of course the opposite, the single guy with zero responsibilities, emotional baggage coming courtesy of an estranged father, and living the swinging single life through plenty of bed exercises with various lasses, with the only job he's being able to possibly hold down involves the light porn industry. They meet one fine day, drink too much, exchange war stories and basically wished that they could have the other's life, and voila with the aid of urine, they swap bodies the next morning.
Yes you read that right. Urine was one of the catalyst for the magic to happen. In fact, what made this work, despite its rather cliche plot development that you can see coming from miles away, was the very politically incorrect tone, complete with silly slapstick that worked - I cannot get enough each time Dave's toddlers enter the scene, contributing toilet humour and some really crazy antics even though they're computerized, such as one constantly banging his head against the crib - and plenty of F-bombs that will make the prudish amongst us cry blue murder.
With opposites come stories that find that balance between comedy and drama, with each character embarking upon life changing experiences being in another's body provides, such as Mitch discovering the joys of being a family man and having proper goals in life, and Dave finally being able to take stock of his life and just chill to do the things he enjoys. It's like a constant reminder throughout the film for us to decide which camp we belong to, and to tell us that the grass on the other side may be greener after all. And being someone else on the outside also allowed one to discover new things previously unknown just because we sometimes do not get honest feedback from friends and family who prefer the status quo.
Jason Bateman seems to have found a calling in making adult comedies, such as Horrible Bosses and now this, playing characters who seem the most normal on the outside, but probably the most neurotic of the lot on the inside, with pent up frustration coming from the lack of guts to do what is desired. Ryan Reynolds ditches his superhero persona to play the everyday Joe who cannot hold down a permanent job (not that he wants to anyway), the man-child who swears too much and has zero responsibility toward everything. And I mean, everything, so much so he's a one man disaster show, breaking the mold that such characters can't be blessed with good looks.
What also worked, which was crucial to the plot, is how smartly it debunks the usual tactics used in other stories and films where one can get to wake up another human, likely a loved on, on the predicament by asking questions. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's story kept it incredibly neutral and even logical as well, as one sits back to enjoy something that's fun yet able to transcend its peers that have been in similar territories and drawing from the same laughter pool, with a brilliant scene that negates all efforts to identify one's true self to a loved one that almost always happen in other films.
With Leslie Mann and Olivia Wilde serving as eye candies to balance the level of testosterone in the film, The Change-Up was quite the pleasant surprise especially if one took a look at the premises and synopsis and thought that you'd have it all figured out. This one still have a lot more to offer up its sleeves and delivered an all round entertaining package.