REVIEW: The Change-Up

6 08 2011

It’s a stretch to call “The Change-Up” a comedy.  The movie feels like a two-hour gag reel of failed jokes axed from an offensive stand-up comedian’s routine.  It puts you on edge, too, because you are always scared that it’s going to go one step too far and really offend someone like Michael Richards or Tracy Morgan.

Sophomoric and immature humor can be funny at times, but when anything relies solely on it, the act gets old really quickly.  The movie tastelessly hurls pot-shots at mentally challenged people, Down syndrome patients, Japanese people, and Catholics, just to name a few, trying to get a laugh at their expense.  This kind of shock jock technique treads a thin line between making a statement or commentary and exploiting stereotypes for personal gain; “The Change-Up” is so far on the wrong side of that line it really isn’t funny.

Not only that, the movie as a whole just doesn’t produce the laughs that it should.  The writers of “The Hangover,” who penned the stale reimagining of “Freaky Friday” that can barely be called a script, took the wrong lesson from their smash success.  We didn’t respond so overwhelmingly positively to “The Hangover” because of its raunchiness and vulgarity; that’s standard order in Hollywood R-rated comedies nowadays.  We responded because it was outrageously original and a fun ride because we never knew what to expect.

“The Change-Up” represents that lazy and misplaced mentality that  doubling the crudeness and gutting the inventiveness down to next to nothing will still produce a good comedy.  As evinced by all the jokes that fall terribly flat and the ability to see the wheels of the movie turning the whole time, it doesn’t produce anything except a rollickingly predictable and forgettable time at a movie that should have you rolling on the floor.  And alas, there are probably more body changing movies out there than decent laughs in this movie.

Even a tip-top cast of comedians including Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, and Leslie Mann can’t breathe some humor into this soulless monster.  Sure, there’s some incidental laughter when the body switch takes place and the whorish stoner Reynolds character enters the tightly wound Bateman body (and vice versa), but as this novelty is hardly novel, it wears off expectedly quickly.  From there, it’s just gross-out and coarse humor that never really delivers.  On the seldom joke that does work, it’s always an uncomfortable or guilty laugh, neither of which are fun means of delivery for the aphrodisiac of comedy.

So in the event that you had put all your metaphorical eggs in the basket for “The Hangover” as the future of comedy, maybe it’s best to take those eggs out.  Because as “The Change-Up” reminds us, the genre’s future relies not on replicating past successes but on looking forward to see what new trails can be blazed.  Being one step ahead of the collective mentality is key nowadays, and this movie has it’s feet planted way back in its comedic predecssors’ footsteps.  D+ / 

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