Monday, June 04, 2012

In Defence of “The Change-Up” (sort of)

Not much of what has been written about 2011's The Change-Up has been flattering. It seems like a movie that is destined to be quickly forgotten. Some people told me they found it so revolting that they couldn't get through it. Nevertheless, my view is that despite its obvious flaws it does have a good point to make.

Jason Bateman is a married lawyer on the verge of closing a huge deal and being invited to become a partner at his firm. Ryan Reynolds, a pot-smoking, womanizing, part-time actor is his long-time friend. During a night of drunken revelry, they make a wish to switch lives.

When their wishes come true they come to realize that the grass isn't quite as green on the other side of the fence. Reynolds, now Bateman, is disgusted that his beautiful wife is a real life human being and that his children require routine maintenance. Bateman, now Reynolds, discovers that you should always read the script before going to the set.

In yet another twist, after a few days of living in each other's bodies, they realize that they now have opportunities to pursue things that were missing in their own lives. Bateman (now Reynolds) has a chance to enjoy life: not just chasing skirts, but reading books, sleeping in, and learning to roller blade. Reynolds (now Bateman) relishes the opportunity to help negotiate the huge deal that will make or break his partnership opportunity, and steps up to the plate (sort of) as a father.

When they have the chance to switch back to their original bodies, they both hesitate until they have a predictable and simultaneous change of heart. Back in their own bodies, the perspective of having lived as someone else makes their own lives more fulfilling.

I can't deny that the movie is flawed in many ways. There is too much gross-out humour that is not funny; a male-centric vision of the universe; a recycled body-swap plot, and so on. In particular, the women I've talked to have found it to be unwatchable. While I wouldn't blame anyone for walking out on it, I do think the moral of the story (intentional or not) makes up for some of its deficiencies.

sombreros don't actually make an appearance in this movie 

What interests me is the movie's take on "work-life balance." Usually the term "work-life balance" is used as a vehicle to discuss the need for downtime from your job. The problem I have with this view is that since work is part of your life, the sharp distinction of work vs. life doesn't make sense. What The Change Up says is that your life is best when your work-life and your non-work life are in harmony. It's not just about working less, it's about making work a healthy part of your life. On the other side, a life of pure hedonism (Reynolds) will inevitably leave you unfulfilled.

I see it all the time at my job. People who have nothing going on outside of work are miserable and make lousy co-workers. Similarly, people with a "check-in/check-out" mentality who work as little as possible to get back to their “real” lives can be equally irritating. After seeing this movie I’ve noticed that I often fall into this latter category, and it says something about myself that I’m not sure I like.

If you've seen this movie, what do you think? Is it complete garbage or does it have a point?


  1. It doesn't have a point but it was still funny, with characters that we actually care about. Sort of forgettable, but at least it's fun while it lasts. Good points here.

  2. Did you actually care about the characters? I didn't want anything bad to happen to them, but I really wasn't rooting for them. I was actually sort of hoping they would decide to permanently switch bodies.

  3. I couldn't get it into at all. I found the screenplay to be a mess. It wanted to be so many things. A comedy about two different guys wanting to be different people but it gets tacked on by awful sentimentality, extremely childish humor, and a very predictable ending that isn't well executed because it wants to teach us a lesson about who we are.

    And there's that godawful digitized nudity. Being someone who had grown up watching softcore movies in the 1990s when I was a teen and becoming interested in erotic cinema. I was offended by the nudity. Not for how fake it is but for the fact that it was trying to tease us.

    It's already in my list of the worst films ever. I also want to add that although it's set in Atlanta. Atlanta does not look that pretty. It's a fucking shit-hole.

    1. I shouldn't have checked your list at work. I saw the MC Hammer Story and almost lost it.

  4. I found it reasonably funny, but very predictable. I doubt I'll ever watch it again.

    1. Yup - could've used a vampire.


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