Sometimes a film just makes me despair. The Change-Up is the latest body-swap comedy to emerge from Hollywood, but few entries in this long-running genre have ever been more dispiriting or odious than this witless farce. The film fails on every conceivable level, but it's hard to avoid the notion that they have failed because they barely tried to make something worthwhile in the first place. There's nothing inherently wrong with making another body-swap movie – as recently as 2003 I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Waters' Freaky Friday – but to make a successful one you need just a little bit of wit and imagination, a clever central conceit, and characters whose predicament we can care about or at the very least be interested in. The Change-Up doesn't offer any of these qualities and the overwhelming sense one is left with as the credits roll is one having experienced a film that possesses an astonishing level of contempt for both its characters and its audience.
The Change-Up's premise is fundamentally broken by its choice of the two characters who undergo this switch of bodies. An old man swapping bodies with a teenager is interesting, a mother inhabiting the body of her daughter is interesting – one bland, middle-aged white guy trading places with another middle-aged white guy is not interesting. Jason Bateman is Dave, who we first meet when he goes to tend to his two screaming (and badly CGI-d) babies and takes a mouthful of projectile shit from one as he changes its nappy (weirdly, the camera focusing on the infant's dilating anus before the shit is unleashed). If there's one thing we learn from The Change-Up's depiction of Dave's life, it's that marriage is a miserable, stressful, sexless nightmare, so it's little wonder that he wishes he could live the life enjoyed by his buddy Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), a mostly unemployed actor whose chief pursuits are pot-smoking and promiscuous sex. What's less clear is why Mitch would want to trade places with Dave, but for the purposes of moving the story forward, he wishes just that and thus the pair switch bodies as they both piss into a magical fountain.
The 'comedy' that ensues is just stupefying in its crassness and its dullness. Mitch proves to be predictably incompetent as he is tasked with closing Dave's major business deal while Dave is completely out of his depth on the shoot of a porn movie and hapless when it comes to Mitch's many lovers. Part of the reason The Change-Up isn't funny is because Bateman and Reynolds' lack of distinctive mannerisms or a recognisable acting style means you constantly need to remind yourself who is playing who, but the main reason it isn't funny is because every single joke is cheap, ugly and juvenile. Aside from the film's inexplicable fecal-obsession (as well as the baby shit both Bateman and Leslie Mann are shown taking a dump, while Bateman also sticks his finger up a woman's arse), the gags rely on all characters behaving with implausible levels of stupidity. But for the most reprehensible aspect of the film, it's hard to see past the way The Change-Up treats its women. They are all strange, faintly disgusting creatures who have babies, get old and sometimes even goes to the toilet (pass the sick bag!), and they're held up for our mockery and revulsion unless they are willing to play the role of fun-loving sex object (a part Olivia Wilde dutifully fills).
Here's the thing about The Change-Up. It wants us to see it as a raunchy, taboo-breaking comedy, but at heart it is bound by the formulaic and deeply entrenched conservatism of Hollywood (when Dave has the opportunity to have sex with the woman he has lusted after for years, why does a sudden pang of conscience drive him back to his wife?). Nothing in the movie is real or honest. The characters don't convince (it's impossible to believe that these two guys would still be friends) the obstacles they face are hackneyed (Mitch has a rocky relationship with his dad – fucking daddy issues yet again. Get a grip, Hollywood!) and their eventual epiphanies feel totally artificial, emerging from the need to hastily wrap the script up and nothing more. The Change-Up exemplifies mainstream Hollywood at its worst, displaying a scant regard for quality or for the taste and standards of its audience. You may have noticed that at no point in this review have I mentioned the name of the director – sorry, I didn't catch the credit. Let's just look at The Change-Up as another forgettable piece of garbage, rolling off the production line of a filmmaking industry that hates you.