Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unnecessary Vulgarity

On Monday after work, I decided to go see The Change-Up, mostly for two reasons: I'm a sucker for body-switching movies and I read that this one was filmed in my home city: Atlanta. To date, there has not been a great movie filmed in Atlanta. 1996's Fled probably comes the closest, as I have that one on DVD mostly because its the only film that features my hometown of Stone Mountain (the park, though, not the town itself). I watched The Rise of the Planet of the Apes last Friday and still plan to write a review for my blog. But, I wanted to write about The Change-Up, first.

One of my favourite films during my childhood years was Freaky Friday, where a tomboyish (I used to think she was the real "Peppermint Patty") teenager Jodie Foster switches bodies with her frustrated mother, Barbara Harris (the ultimate Disney mom). The end of the film hinted at a sequel where the son and father switch places, but none were ever made. It wasn't until a decade later when three body switching movies came out really close to one another (in 1987-1988): Like Father, Like Son; Vice Versa; and the king of them all: Big. There's been a few Disney remakes of Freaky Friday, one with Shelley Long as the mother and the other featuring Jamie Lee Curtis as the mother. None hold a candle to the original film. In 1991 came a gender switching film about a sexist male chauvinist pig who finds himself in the body of Ellen Barkin. I didn't see that one, though. There's also the sweet, 13 Going on 30, which was essentially the female version of Big.

Now comes The Change-Up, about two lifelong friends who both envies the other guy's life. Jason Bateman plays the responsible father of three (two of his children being twins). He seems to live the dream life: a beautiful wife, a nice suburban home, and a rising career at a downtown law firm where he's due to make partner. His best friend from elementary school is played by Ryan Reynolds (whose face always comes across as a smirky frat boy that you can't trust with your life). Reynolds is the lifelong bachelor who lives like he's still a teenager. He dreams of making it big as an actor and he gets to sleep around with any lady of his choice. The premise is so outlandish that it strained the credibility. From my personal experience and from what I read, men aren't great about keeping in touch with friends for a long time. Men tend to prefer to maintain friends with guys they have something in common with, and if these two men really went off in opposite directions in life, its very unlikely that they would have maintained a friendship all those years. For one thing, Reynolds has no filter and speaks with plenty of profanity around his best friend's wife and children, and doesn't even get a stern look or someone telling him to watch his language.

After a night out on the town that included too many alcoholic beverages, the buddies relieve themselves in a fountain (as seen above) that is overlooked by a statue of some Greek Goddess. The interesting thing about this scene is that it is filmed in the triangular park that is directly across the street from the building I once worked in from 2001 to 2002 when the local council's Boy Scout office rented a floor of this building. One day while I worked there, we saw Ludacris filming a rap video on the street below. In 2003, I attended a Howard Dean rally at that park and got to meet the Vermont Governor for the first time. So, I'm very familiar with that park and I can assure you, there is no such statue in that park. There is a fountain, though, but I think the one in the movie was created specifically for the movie.

Anyhow, when the buddies urinate in the fountain and say at the same time that they wished they had the other friend's life, the magic occurs. The next morning, they discover that they had awaken in their best friend's body. A comedy of errors ensue.

Mostly, though, I found this film unfunny and that the filmmaker tried too hard, mistaking vulgarity for humour. There's a scene early on where Jason Bateman gets a huge squirt of poo while changing diapers, though it looked more like chocolate pudding than diarrhea. It was disgusting, though. The audience groaned at that unnecessary scene.

There's plenty of naked breasts shots that really don't serve the movie. Its mostly done in a gratuitous way, which is disappointing. They were getting into Farelly Brothers territory with their vulgarities. Some scenes I'm talking about include an older lady who obviously had plastic surgery to look younger trying to be a porn actress (complete with fake looking breasts); a naked pregnant woman pouncing on Ryan Reynolds, Bateman's wife letting it rip while on the toilet and complaining about how Thai food doesn't sit well in her stomach, and plenty of profanities to earn the R-rating many times over.

What a shame that they had to go the vulgar route. It detracted from the movie, not enhanced it. All the scenes around Atlanta (such as Piedmont Park, the view of the downtown skyscrapers, references to Druid Hills, Turner field during a Braves baseball game, the Georgia Aquarium) was not enough for me to enjoy this movie. The entire presentation was just too outrageous to sustain the "suspension of disbelief", which is required for a movie like this. The ultimate in cheesiness, however, was when the buddies race to the Mall of Georgia to urinate in the fountain in the hope that they'll get their lives back. The mall is crowded with teenagers, but they just let it flow. Its supposed to be funny, but it was just ridiculous. If I was grading this movie, I'd give it a big fat F. Epic fail. Bateman seems to be the only one having fun. He's at his flirty, winking best when he's trying to portray the persona of Reynolds. There's no doubt, this actor is on a roll with the amount of movies he's made in the past few years. Hopefully, he'll be more selective about the roles he chooses, though.

The biggest disappointment, though, is what a colossal waste of a great idea! I kept wondering if this was a first draft script or if it was written by teenage boys. The basic idea is not a bad one. I've often thought of what it would be like if one of my best friends and I switched bodies for a period of time. Nathan and I are about as opposite as two close friends can get, so I've thought about writing a screenplay about our personalities switching bodies to experience how the other lives. However, I know how that would turn out. I would be the bigger benefactor because there would be things I would be able to do in Nathan's body (a political career would be definite) where I would be limited in my own body. However, I'm certain that Nathan would likely hate to live a day in my body, though he'd probably hit the gym for several hours every day. It might make an interesting story, or it might not, but it would probably be world's better than the crap that is The Change-Up.

In the end, Jason Bateman returns to his life with a renewed appreciation for the joys of married life, of being present for his young children, and even lessening his work load. Reynolds' character will have to change a lot, though. He basically learns how to follow through on commitments and finally appears to grow up and acts his age. Its a rather weak resolution, though. As some Teacher Assistants I knew at BYU might say, "So what?" Ultimately, that's what I thought as I left the theater. Or as Reynolds himself might say: "So fucking what?!?"

No comments: