By copying an idea that has already been done a few times, you are almost setting yourself up for an automatic fail. Most people will see the idea, usually in the trailer, and decide that they’ve seen it all before and that it’s another “lazy movie” rather than something unique.
You can certainly make that argument with The Change-Up which bares more than a passing resemblance to both Freaky Friday (which itself has been remade once at least) or Vice-Versa, which is the same as Freaky Friday but with Father/Son rather than Mother/Daughter. Add that to the fact that in many science-fiction shows, the idea of body swap has been done to death. It seems that The Change-Up was on to a loser from the beginning.
That’s slightly unfair though because there is potential in the movie. For starters, in a time for films where The Hangover, Bridesmaids and most things produced by Judd Apatow are doing great business, a body-swap comedy with a much more adult theme seems like a good and potentially successful idea.
The next step is the casting. The Change-Up did a great job. Ryan Reynolds plays the lazy, irresponsible playboy brilliantly and Jason Bateman couldn’t be a better suited, business-minded, responsible, family man. Of course, the actual comedy is in the switch itself, so its even funnier to see Bateman play Reynolds and vice versa.
In this case, the film can’t be faulted. Reynolds does a great Bateman impression but Bateman playing Reynolds is a stroke of genius. He has the mannerisms, the speech and best of all the attitude, perfectly. The key is to forget that the actors are playing the other character and I think this is achieved brilliantly by the pair of leading men.
The next step is to make the situations they are placed in suitably awkward. I always find this part difficult. If I ever body-swapped with my best mate, I’m pretty sure we’d both phone-in sick to work. I always feel that is the biggest struggle with these kind of films, why would you ever leave the house until you figured the problem out? That defeats the point of a film where the very concept asks you to suspend your disbelief though so it can be forgiven.
The situations are suitably “adult,” from pregnant lady booty-calls to unbelievably gross nappy changing, there is plenty of humour and genuine laughs. The fact that Reynolds and Bateman do comedy very naturally helps the film even more.
The main problem becomes the interaction with every other character and the “lessons.” The body-swap is always designed to make the people swapping realising that their lives aren’t as bad as they thought or to make them empathise with the opposite character. This is where the film struggles and gets slightly tired. There are some good ideas but at times it sucks the mood out of the film, bringing it right down with family dysfunction or a breakdown in a Father/Son relationship. It’s not that its unnecessary, it just feels a little too “tacked-on.”
There is also issues with convincing others that you’ve body-swapped. There is great humour when they try to convince Bateman’s wife but later on, they stretch credibility, as well as “believability” a little too far, even for a film where two grown men swap bodies.
Overall, a very funny, brilliantly acted comedy that manages to offer some very fresh ideas to an idea that has been done a ridiculous amount of times. The more “adult” nature of the comedy, something resembling The Hangover rather than Freaky Friday, added to the perfect casting of Reynolds and Bateman, is what makes this film better than a carbon copy of so many other films before it.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)