“The Change-Up” Is Much Too Crappy

I have never found diarrhea (or defecation in any form) funny. That’s probably why I don’t understand the filmmakers’ obsession with trying to work gross bathroom humor into many comedies these days. Apparently I am in the minority, however, because toilet scenes continue to occur in a plethora of R-rated comedies, and “The Change-Up” is a prime example.

Early in the film Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman), an Atlanta attorney with a 5-year-old daughter and infant twins, lets his wife, Jamie (Leslie Mann), stay in bed while he gets up to tend to the two little ones. When he opens the diaper of the first one, we are treated to a close-up of the “surprise” contained therein. But this isn’t enough to please the shit mongers, so the next thing that happens is that the other twin treats Dad to a bout of projectile diarrhea that hits him squarely in the face and slides down his forehead, into his eyes, over his nose, and into his mouth. Isn’t that hysterical?

And later in the film we must watch one of the adults suffer on the toilet after eating something disagreeable. I think the persistence of this kind of thing in films should spawn a new rating so that those of us who don’t enjoy such “humor” can be forewarned. How about VG-No. 2? The initials stand for “very gross,” and we all know what No. 2 represents.

Interestingly enough, if it had not been for the gross-out scenes, some token nudity, and a lot of foul language, “The Change-Up” had the potential to be a relatively engaging comedy with a valuable message.

Whereas Dave is a hard-working lawyer and a dedicated husband and father, Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds), his best friend since childhood, is a pot-smoking womanizer who earns some money by occasionally acting in porn films. Dave envies Mitch’s cavalier lifestyle, but Mitch sees how much Dave has made of his life and often wonders what it would be like to walk around in his friend’s shoes.

One evening after the two of them have spent some time drinking at a bar, they are walking off the booze and stop to urinate in a fountain presided over by Metis, the Greek goddess of wisdom. As they are relieving themselves, they simultaneously wish they could have each other’s life. And the next morning, and that’s exactly what they get. Now Mitch will experience what it’s like to be a responsible family man, and Dave will get a taste of the uninhibited good life.

The identity swap occurs during a period when both men are facing an important time in their lives. Dave has been working very hard to become a partner in his law firm, and Mitch is attempting to deal with his strained relationship with his estranged father (Alan Arkin). The end result is that both men learn valuable lessons about life.

“The Change-Up” is a raunchy comedy definitely not suited for children because in addition to the aforementioned gross scenes, it also contains nudity, fairly graphic sex scenes, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of profanity. The sad thing about the film is that if those who made it could have cut back on the grossness, it could have been a respectable film. As it stands, however, it will appeal to moviegoers who like tasteless and nauseating humor. Unfortunately I’m not one of them.

Both Bateman and Reynolds are excellent in their respective roles, and they are especially effective when they switch identities. Of course, there is nothing particularly original about this concept in films because it has been done plenty of times, but these two guys really carry the idea off well. In the film’s production notes, both stars offered interesting insight into their respective characters.

“Mitch is a guy who missed that invaluable foothold that most people have in their early twenties when they decide that they’re going to grow up,” Reynolds said. “He is rudderless in life and living in a very carefully constructed reality. He’s an out-of-work actor/odd-job kind of guy. He’s a self-medicating, weed-smoking, self-proclaimed ninja, and he’s just a bit on the eccentric side. Despite it all, Mitch is someone who really enjoys life. He’s the kind of guy who embraces any surroundings that he finds himself in. His enthusiasm is contagious and infectious, but he has no edit button.”

“Somehow the script found its way to me—clearly too early—because they needed to find a stud first,” Bateman said. “After they found Ryan, things fell into place. What I liked most about the script was how funny it was with all of the very hard-R humor that was written in a way that wasn’t gratuitous. It’s not just arbitrary F-bombs. Jon and Scott wrote a screenplay that was very realistic in terms of how most people would react by having to live your best friend’s life for a period of time. It’s also an actor’s dream in comedy to play both sides of the characters: the straight man and the fool.

“Dave is envious of Mitch’s life and his complete freedom to do whatever he wants every single day. He spent a lot of time in his twenties chasing the dream of becoming a lawyer and then in his thirties trying to make partner, so he missed out on a lot of the things people do at that age. When you’re single, there’s a lot of sex and drugs and bad choices in that time period. Dave’s not dying to get back there, but he simply thinks, ‘Boy, I blew it, and now it’s too late.’ He’s not upset, unhappy or bitter; he’s just tired from the grind of it all.”

Near the end of the film, both Dave and Mitch experience epiphanies, and these scenes are outstanding. Mitch’s occurs during a dinner in Dave’s honor, and Dave’s happens during a sexual encounter with Sabrina, a blisteringly hot lawyer played to the hilt by Olivia Wilde, whom you may know better as Thirteen on the “House” television series.

In addition to Bateman and Reynolds, one of the film’s mainstays is Mann, who is quite good as Dave’s befuddled wife. She brings a nice mixture of confusion, hurt, and outrage to her portrayal of Jamie, and she is the one character in the film who effectively elicits our sympathy.

“The Change-Up” (Give a final score of six.) was directed by David Dobkin, who also directed “The Wedding Crashers,” and written by John Lucas and Scott Moore, the same guys who wrote the script for “The Hangover.” Although it offers some funny scenes and decent acting, the film’s excessive grossness spoiled it for me. I seriously am beginning to wonder what modern screenwriters would do without the ubiquitous toilet. Sadly (or should I say ironically) that’s exactly where a number of the scenes from this movie belong.

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