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.

Film Review: Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses is a fun comedy that entertains throughout. All is forgiven, Jennifer Aniston. Well almost all. Not The Bounty Hunter.

Friends Nick, Kurt and Dale all hate their bosses. Nick’s boss Dave has psychotic tendencies. Kurt’s new boss Bobby is a habitual drug user. Dale’s boss Julia makes unwanted sexual advances towards him on a daily basis. The trio contemplate killing their bosses, but things don’t go according to plan…

Horrible Bosses works very well as a 15-rated comedy. The humour is sometimes lewd but never descends too far into crassness. There are some very amusing site gags as well as a script that is punctuated with humour throughout. The comedy has a universal appeal. It is not too close to the bone as to offend people, yet there are some darkly humorous jokes.

Seth Gordon’s film is well paced, and provides some tension (although this is never without humour). Given the premise, the narrative seems quite predictable from the outset. Nevertheless, the film features a number of small twists, making it more difficult to predict the outcome. Horrible Bosses does some of the things expected of it, but subverts other elements.

Considering that there are several main characters, it is unsurprising that the film relies on stereotypes to a certain extent. The trio of friends are sufficiently developed and have a believable relationship. However, the screenwriters have made the bosses into caricatures. This may sound like a negative, but it reality it is not. Given the genre, these over-the-top characters are responsible for much of the film’s humour. The bosses are given the freedom to be as outlandish as possible, making them far worse than the average nasty employer. As well as creating humour, this gives credence to the murder plot.

Horrible Bosses boasts great performances from its stellar cast. Jason Bateman is as watchable as ever as Nick, playing the straight guy to the more comical friends. Jason Sudeikis is a lot of fun as Kurt, while Charlie Day once again shows off his comedy chops as Dale. Jamie Foxx is amusing in a small role.

As Dave, Kevin Spacey appears to be playing a more heighten version of himself. Colin Farrell is wildly amusing as Bobby, but is sadly underused. Jennifer Aniston is great as Julie. It is refreshing to see her in a different type of role, which goes some way to redeem her recent film choices. Aniston also seems to be having a lot of fun with her character.

Horrible Bosses is highly recommended for mainstream comedy fans. Although it is unlikely to win any awards, it should prove very enjoyable for audiences.

Horrible Bosses is out in UK cinemas on 22nd July 2011.

Film Review: The Switch

There has been much emphasis on The Switch being a ‘Jennifer Aniston movie’, but in reality this is not the case. It is interesting to consider if it would make any difference to box office results if this fact was more widespread. As it stands, The Switch is a movie that features Jennifer Aniston, but the focus is predominantly on Jason Bateman.

Wally Mars is skeptical when his best friend Cassie Larson tells him she wishes to have a baby by herself. After a drunken mishap, Wally is far more involved than originally planned, unbeknownst to Cassie…

Perhaps what is most interesting about The Switch is that it takes the unusual step of being a romantic comedy taken from the viewpoint of a male character. Although the romantic element is really between the two main characters, it is Wally’s inner turmoil that we see, rather than Cassie’s. Wally is undoubtedly the protagonist; he narrates the film and the focus is almost entirely on him. Inevitably, it is Wally we want to see have the obligatory happy ending.

The film was originally entitled ‘The Baster’. Filmmakers were wise to alter the title, as it moves the film away from the crass connotations of the original name. The film isn’t a crude comedy; there is plenty of more poignant moments along with some laughs. Furthermore, changing the title to The Switch reiterates the emphasis on the male rather than the female character.

The Switch offers a number of humorous incidents, but these are rarely of the laugh-out-loud calibre. The film is more effective when it concentrates on the drama. There are some cheesy moments, but these seem a prerequisite in the rom-com oeuvre. The more serious scenes, however, are at times touching.

Jason Bateman gives an excellent performance as Wally. He generates a sense of believability that really carries the film. Wally’s flaws (his neuroticism, lack of self-confidence and assertiveness) make him a relatable character, more so than the others featured in the movie. The Switch illustrates that Jennifer Aniston, Juliette Lewis and Jeff Goldblum each appear to play very similar characters in most of their performances. As Cassie, Jennifer Aniston gives us the type of character we have seen numerous times before from her. Lewis does her kooky friend schtick, whilst Goldblum does the obligatory laid-back guy who talks fast thing so associated with his persona. A stretch for none of them, then.

Although the plot is thin, Jason Bateman elevates The Switch to a much more watchable level. It is not a brilliant film, but neither is it a bad one.