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The Change Up

Jason Batemen and Ryan Renolds in The Change-Up.


The Change-Up

Remember when projectile vomiting was considered the ultimate movie gross-out? It wasn’t a standard that needed to be topped, but The Change-Up does so in its first scene. Suffice to say that the word “projectile” still applies, that parents may react to it differently than non-breeders, and that arriving five minutes late for this movie wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

This comedy starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds as a pair of couldn’t-be-more-different buddies who magically exchange bodies (don’t even ask how that is accomplished) is the latest entry in Hollywood’s “other” summer genre, The R-Rated Comedy.

You have to search hard to find a big studio summer release that isn’t a massively overpriced CGI extravaganza based on comic book or other juvenile reading material. Up to a few years ago there would also be action movies that were just as effects-intensive but at least geared to grownups. Even last year brought Inception and Salt. But for 2011, Hollywood has dumbed their summer slate down about as far as it can go. Ask a studio executive about the chances of releasing any drama during the non-awards season and he’ll probably react like a Republican to the word “revenue.”

Still, they can’t entirely take the chance of driving all non-teens and non-parents to the arthouses. Someone in Hollywood must be tasked with worrying what would happen if a plague wiped out all ticket buyers under the age of 24, and thus The R-Rated Comedy. Instituted by There’s Something About Mary and The Wedding Crashers and refined by the massively lucrative The Hangover, the genre is based on two assumptions: 1) enough people will be attracted to an R-rated movie just because of the rating to make one potentially profitable, 2) nothing makes Americans laugh more than sex, urine, flatulence, and genital torture.

In other words, juvenile material offered as forbidden fruit. (That teenagers generally have no trouble getting into R-rated films, or at worst just wait to watch them on DVD or cable, is beside the point.)

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I have to admit I didn’t dislike The Change-Up, which has more belly laughs than anything else at the multiplexes this summer. I can even say that I learned a new word, “lorno,” in a scene where uptight lawyer Dave, now inhabiting the body of slacker/actor Mitch, has to show up for one of his gigs and discovers that his buddy has been working in the kind of movies that show at midnight on Cinemax. At moments like this (and, admittedly, that opening scene), you can feel John Waters giving the film an approving nod.

As directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) from a script by the writers of the original The Hangover, The Change-Up flirts with the subversive possibilities of the premise. Will Mitch take the opportunity while he’s in his friend’s body to have sex with Dave’s wife (Leslie Mann), on whom he has long had a crush? Will Dave do the same with his hot co-worker (Olivia Wilde)? You know the answer, but the movie teases out the possibilities further than you might expect. And it keeps the inevitable sentimentality, where our heroes come to value their own lives and learn what their loved ones really think about them, to a minimum.

It’s an awfully sloppy movie. It wouldn’t have taken much of a script polish to patch up glaring continuity problems that make the story alternately seem like it’s taking place over several months or a single week. But Bateman and Reynolds ably play off each other (as well as playing each other), and there are more good jokes than merely crude ones. (Why doesn’t everyone pick up babies by the back of their jumpers like Bateman does?)

The Change-Up may be one for the history books in one regard. Leslie Mann has two nude scenes, both of which are surprisingly frank. You may find yourself thinking that she looks pretty good for a woman pushing 40. You may also believe that the animals in Zookeeper can talk, but it’s all the work of the guys in the computer lab (whose personal files are something we probably don’t want to see). It was only a matter of time before they figured out that CGI is the perfect way to get nude scenes from actresses who don’t actually want to get naked on camera.

Watch the trailer for MOVIE

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