Friday, December 9, 2011
Day 10: The Change-Up
"This is called hair gel, or product. To little, you look like a pedophile; Too much, you look Persian."
Like it or not, 2005's Wedding Crashers effectively changed the landscape of the American comedy movie in one crucial way, much like Lord of the Rings changed the landscape of the Amercian fantasy epic. They inflated the established running time and set a new standard for the genre. Comedies used to run no more than 90 minutes and fantasy films used to be two hour affairs. Now comedies run two hours on a regular basis, and three hours is the new standard for the serious, prestige epics. There's a lot to like in Wedding Crashers, but it's bloated at best and downright boring at worst, and that's where most American comedies have lived for the last 6 years.
That film's director David Dobkin has made two movies since then. The horrendous Christmas comedy Fred Claus, run time 116 minutes, and this past summer's The Change-Up, run time 112 minutes. Plainly put, the guy doesn't know how to take a knife to his movies, and man alive do they suffer as a result. There's a pretty good 80 minute comedy buried in both Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up (I challenge you to find anything good buried in Fred Claus). The other problem with The Change-Up is that it's another one of those movies, like 30 Minutes or Less, that wants to have it both ways. It wants to be raunchy, raucous and outrageous, but it also wants you to know that it's got a heart and there's a sweet, sensitive soul buried under all those dick and shit jokes.
Jason Bateman & Ryan Reynolds play best buds who, on a drunken night together, wish for each other's lives while peeing in a fountain. The next morning hip and swinging bachelor Reynolds wakes up in the body of Bateman's straight-laced family man, and vice versa (pun firmly intended). The standard tropes of the body switching sub-genre play out as hijinks ensue. Plainly put, these two are on a collision course to wackiness, and if nothing else, we'll soon find out that there's no lesson that these two can't learn in the course of a montage.
Bateman gets the MVP award in this movie and he clearly relishes the chance to play a complete and total fuck-up in the body of a normal buttoned-down guy. He has played the straight-man for so long that it's easy to see his desire to do a movie like this for no other reason than to play firmly against type. Reynolds is only hindered by his inability to play the straight man as well as Bateman would have. It's not that Reynolds is bad in the movie, he just isn't as comfortable playing the straight man. Leslie Mann is better than this movie deserves as Bateman's wife. She has some good scenes and was given a fairly well written part, but, and I hate to say this, it mainly survives because Dobkin seems to have refused to cut any of her scenes.
The movie never gets better than the first day they spend in each other's bodies. Bateman going into a merger deal as a big time lawyer, dressed like he's been on a yacht all day, is the comedic high point of the movie. Reynolds' lorno (light porno) movie shoot is made great by a cameo from Craig Bierko as that film's Eastern European director. I'm not lying when I say it was his best performance ever. The movie just gets so god-damned repetitive though as we slog through day after day of these two buffoons trying to fumble through one another's lives.
While I wouldn't call the movie a waste of time (it was well worth the $1.20 I paid for the night from Redbox), there are much better movies out there, and I feel as though I wasted valuable time watching this movie, which is also the lesson that these guys learn, so I feel like it's a wash and we're all coming out wiser on the other side of this thing.
Hooray for us!