Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) is married to Jamie (Leslie Mann, playing the same wife she plays in all of these movies), raising three children (a little girl and twins) and working hard to become partner at his law firm. Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) is, essentially, the opposite — no wife, no family, no job (except the occasional, not-so-class acting gig), no real responsibilities. Dave and Jamie keep scheduling and missing an hour to talk to each other; Mitch works on having conversation-free sex with a variety of women. After a rare night of hanging out together at a sports bar, a tipsy Dave and Mitch claim to admire each other’s lives. They even wish for each other’s life right at the moment they are peeing into a fountain overseen by a none-too-pleased-looking stone lady.
The next morning, well, you’ve seen the trailer — booze-o, change-o and Dave wakes up in the bed and body of single Mitch and Mitch wakes up in Dave’s body, next to Jamie, who’s already nagging him. The men quickly try to return to the fountain to pee their way back to normal, but the fountain has been moved and it may be weeks before the city can find its new location.
So Dave, who now looks like Mitch, tries to keep Mitch from screwing up the big deal he’s working on that can finally get him that promotion, and Mitch, who looks like Dave, tries to get his buddy to relax and enjoy single life a little. Both men, however, soon find that they didn’t even know their own lives that well — Dave ends up having a heart-to-heart discussion with his unhappy wife, who thinks she’s talking to Mitch. Mitch ends up hearing what his dad (Alan Arkin) thinks about his life choices when his dad calls up “Dave” for some helping getting his son to his latest wedding.
This is all pretty standard stuff — wackiness, some truth-telling, some learning, some more wackiness, little bit of magic. This actually describes a fair amount of 1980s comedies. Modern translation of that kind of feather-light entertainment doesn’t always work out. That this movie does has a lot to do with how generally likeable everybody is. You kind of like all of these characters — including Mitch’s dad and Jamie (though maybe not so much the racist law firm boss played by Gregory Itzin, but he’s hateable in a fun way) and even Sabrina (Olivia Wilde), Dave’s law colleague on whom he has a mild crush. There are no real villains here. Or, to say what actually had me relieved, the women aren’t the villains here. We don’t come away with the message that wives are awful and single girls are trampy. Instead, the movie treats everybody like a person. I’ve said that a lot lately — Friends with Benefits; Crazy, Stupid, Love. and now this movie. I’m sure this won’t be a trend that will continue but it’s certainly nice while it’s lasted. And it’s made the comedy, even the rather middling comedy of poopy diapers and mixed up identities, that much smarter and funnier.
And then there are Reynolds and Batemen, who do a surprisingly good job of making the two characters each plays (Reynolds as Reynolds’ character and Reynolds as Batemen’s character) different and believable.
Different shirts and postures could have been the extent of it but they actually give the characters discernibly different personalities, so that even if you just saw his face, you’d know whether Bateman was playing Mitch or Dave.
The Change-Up isn’t going to change your world — I’m not even sure it’s worth making an extra trip to the theater for. It seems more like the kind of movie you’d pick once you already decided you want to go see something, whatever, just not something bad, at the movies. It will be a solid rental, though, and a nice time if you should stumble upon it. B-
Rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use. Directed by David Dobkin and written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, The Change-Up is an hour and 52 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.