Film Review: The Judge

The Judge

The Judge offers solid performances from its two leads. Nonetheless, this is not enough to carry the entire film.

High profile lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his small hometown for the first time in years after a family bereavement. When his estranged father, the long-standing town judge, is arrested for murder, Hank sets out help him…

The premise of The Judge is decent enough. There is an element of mystery to the case which should engage viewers for the most part. In fact, if the film had concentrated on the criminal case, it is likely that The Judge would have been a more satisfying film.

However, director David Dobkin chooses to concentrate on the relationship dynamic rather than the criminal case in The Judge. The central narrative of the strained relationship between father and son is not necessarily a bad thing. Nevertheless, the characters are not developed sufficiently to make this compelling. There is something rather two-dimensional about the characters. They are archetypes, which the audience will be familiar with. Whilst reasons for the difficult relationship are explained as the film progresses, these never feel fully authentic.

Ultimately, The Judge is let down by this, as well as its pacing. The film is overlong, with plenty of scenes that do little to move along plot or to further develop characters. The climax of the film is particularly mawkish. Whilst a breakthrough in the relationship needed to occur, the setting and reaction of observers seems to break noticeably from what would be the reality. The Judge may have had a greater impact if a greater degree of subtlety had been employed.

Robert Duvall offers a strong performance as Joseph Palmer. Robert Downey Jr. brings his charisma to Hank; a role not dissimilar from other lead characters he has played. It is almost as if the screenwriters have relied on the actor’s persona to build the character.

The Judge offers a high-calibre cast, but a lacklustre end product. Ultimately, the film feels like a wasted opportunity.

Film Review: The Change-Up

The Change-Up is a by-the-numbers bodyswap comedy that distinguishes itself from others in the field by the level of toilet humour. This is not enough to sustain the film’s 112-minute running time.

Husband and father of three Dave Lockwood is too busy to have any fun. In contrast, his best friend Mitch Planko is single, good-looking and has an eye for the ladies. After a heavy night drinking, the men decide to relive themselves in a fountain. Little do they realise that their wish to swap lives is about to come true…

By their nature, bodyswap films are formulaic. They tread a familiar narrative path, offering the same lessons and often the same type of humour. This does not mean that cannot be fresh and enjoyable, however. The 2003 remake Freaky Friday is a good example of this. Unfortunately The Change-Up does not do anything particularly innovative with the sub-genre.

The humour in The Change-Up works some of the time. For the most part, the comedy is crass. The film relies on gross-out humour to entertain, which is a hit-and-miss strategy. On the one hand, some of the jokes and situations are amusing. One the other, the vulgarity appears solely for shock value in some of the scenes. Nevertheless, it is the emotional scenes in the film that ring hollow. Writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore would have been wiser to forgo the whole serious strand and concentrate on making the audience laugh.

There is a lack of character development in David Dobkin’s film. The Change-Up relies on lazy stereotypes rather than attempting to craft authentic characters. This is particularly pertinent in the case of the two main female characters in the film. It does not seem that too much thought went into constructing these characters. Dave’s wife Jamie is one-dimensional as the nagging housewife. Dave’s colleague Sabrina, meanwhile, only function seems to be as the obligatory eye candy. The result of this lack of development is that the audience may well find it difficult to care about the outcome of the film.

Jason Bateman does his best as Dave, but is ultimately let down by the material. Other performances, such as Ryan Reynolds’ Mitch, are lacking. Leslie Mann gives a tired performance as Jamie in a role she seems to have played before.

The Change-Up is not painful viewing, but it is not exactly enlightening either. Bodyswap movie enthusiasts and fans of Reynolds and Bateman are likely to be disappointed.