Although there may be comparisons to Freaky Friday, The Change-Up frankly sits in its own league when it comes to body switching comedies. The Change-Up feels like a Judd Apatow meets Farrelly Brothers comedy that in the end, is surprisingly more heartfelt than one would expect.
Jason Bateman is Dave, a successful lawyer with a happy marriage, three small children and a huge house in the Atlanta suburbs. Ryan Reynolds is Mitch, Dave’s lifelong friend, who is as much of a slacker as is humanly possible. He parties all day and all night, yet overall, what he really wants is some face time with his best friend who is too busy personally and professionally to hang out.
Ten minutes into the film on a fateful night, Mitch gets his wish -- a night on the town with Dave. After a few drinks and hours of conversation, the pair are relieving themselves in a magical fountain that heeds their call of “I wish I had your life.” Each awakes the next day inhabiting the other’s body.
Director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) knows how to bring the guy comedy to life while still not alienating any of the audience. And in The Change-Up, his two best weapons are not the story and premise (both have been done before), but his two stars.
Watching Jason Bateman become Ryan Reynolds and vice versa is true bliss. Each actor has a long history of well-established bravado playing the straight man and wild man respectively. As Bateman and Reynolds do their comic dance throughout The Change-Up, it is a lesson in comic acting with a partner where both players are at the top of their game.
For example, when Reynolds' lothario (as embodied by Bateman) is eying his best friend’s wife (the always up for the silly Leslie Mann) one late night, you can see the conflict and guilt in the actor’s eyes. We won’t ruin how the scene plays out, because honestly it is one of the film’s funniest.
On the flip side, watching the highly educated, driven-to-be-partner lawyer, as established by Bateman early in the film, leap into the body of Reynolds is further proof Reynolds is simply getting started on his rise to movie superstardom. Is there anything this guy can’t do?
There are periods of The Change-Up that do drag. The exposition of how these two will maneuver their way back into their own selves takes a bit too long to play out. Yet, the pay-off is worth the wait as the film comes to a believable conclusion that doesn’t try to go outside the body switch comedy playbook.
The Change-Up is not necessarily the best comedy of the year, but it is far from the worst. The humor is oftentimes juvenile and given the film’s premise, we wouldn’t have it any other way.