You can find plenty of reasons to criticize "The Change-Up." It's often needlessly crude, with F-bombs, penis jokes and disgusting, wince-worthy poop gags throughout, and the whole movie is based on the body swap, a plot device so overused it's almost painful.
Yes, you'll find nothing earth-shattering here. But one thing can't be denied: You will laugh.
The plot barely needs explaining, it's so well-worn: Dave (Jason Bateman), an uptight, ambitious lawyer and family man, and his best friend Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), a pot-smoking and womanizing slacker, simultaneously wish for each other's lives while peeing in a fountain after a night of drinking. The next morning, they wake to find their wishes granted and the fountain -- their only hope of fixing the screw-up -- uprooted to a new, unknown location.
Chaos reigns supreme for the first half of the movie, with Dave-as-Mitch trying to survive Mitch's lorno -- "light porno," the director informs him -- acting gig and a very unexpected booty call and Mitch-as-Dave flubbing Dave's big contract deal and attempting to parent his three children. The second half gets more serious, with the guys realizing both their flaws and just how good they had it before.
We've seen it all before, but "The Change-Up" takes the whole idea to the R-rated level with enthusiasm, a touch of heart and some clever jokes underneath all the raunch, offensive comments and incessant swearing.
The saviors of what could have been a truly cringe-inducing movie are the actors. The two stars plunge into their dual personas effortlessly, and their interpretations of each other's characters are dead-on. It's a particular joy to watch Bateman, best known for playing the hard-working straight man in the hilarious, much-lauded "Arrested Development" TV series, really let loose. He's inappropriate, irreverent and vulgar, all while retaining his spot-on comic timing -- the only people having more fun with it than him is the audience.
Leslie Mann, who plays Dave's long-suffering wife, is an unexpected high in this movie. Her role is surprisingly meaty -- yes, she shows her breasts, as does almost every other actress with more than a nanosecond of screen time -- but Mann also has some great lines and lends the film some of its touching moments. Olivia Wilde plays Dave's assistant, otherwise known as the perfect girl. She doesn't serve much purpose besides being sexy, but she does it well.
Coming from the directors of "Wedding Crashers" and the writers of "The Hangover," "The Change-Up" follows in those formidable footsteps as best it can, never reaching the comedic levels of either. It's a simple gross-out comedy that goes for cheap giggles and shock value just as often as it offers up genuine laughs, and it achieves both. Expect nothing more, and you won't be disappointed.
Review: 3 stars (Out of 4)
Starring Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde. Directed by David Dobkin. Rated R. 101 minutes. Opens Friday in area theaters.