Friday, January 20, 2012

Bateman, Reynolds, and The Change-Up

Movies are... well... funny, complex, interesting beasts. The greatest story in the world can be ruined by bad acting, bad directing, bad editing. Probably a number of other things, too, but you probably get the idea. Okay, well, a bad screen play if it's a work that's being adapted. On the other hand, a bad story, even a horrible story, can be elevated by great acting. Or an actor with great charisma. Or great directing. I could give examples, I suppose, but, really, why bother?

I suspect The Change-Up is a bad movie. Maybe even a really bad movie. But I can't tell, because I love Ryan Reynolds, and I love Jason Bateman. I don't think either of them are great actors (although, it's hard to be sure with Reynolds), but they both have a certain amount of charisma, and I tend to just like them. Having them together in The Change-Up throws up a really big smoke screen for me, and I'm having a lot of trouble seeing through it, or past it, to the actual movie. I loved their performances so much, that I really enjoyed the movie. Even if, as I said, it's really just a bad movie.

What I do know is that there were some "jokes" in it that were fairly offensive. Not in the "that's offensive but funny" way but in the "that's just offensive" way. Like when Mitch (while in Dave's body) sees Dave's wife breastfeeding and completely freaks out about it. Okay, so him freaking out is funny but not in a good way. There's been a lot in the news lately about the prejudice Americans have against women and breastfeeding, and this kind of thing just upholds those biases, and I find that offensive. Also, again with Mitch in Dave's body, witnesses Dave's wife going to the bathroom after eating something that... disagreed with her. He's disgusted by it and announces (remember, this is Mitch in Dave's body, and Dave's wife thinks it's Dave), "You are no longer attractive to me." While we may laugh at the character (and I'm pretty sure I did), it's not a nice sentiment and not really funny except  in that anyone could actually react that way. Except that people do react that way, that way that says women should not be allowed to fart in public or, even, in front of significant others, and this, rather than challenging that perception, says it's okay to think that way about it.

There are many, many other things of this nature in the movie, but I don't want to talk about all of that. Because, despite these issues, I really enjoyed this movie.

Maybe, I should say I really enjoyed the actors.

There are problems, though, even with that. Not with them in this movie, but in the fact that it's hard to feel like they were acting.

I don't, of course, know either of these men in "real life;" however, the perception is growing that both of these guys are just being hired to play themselves. At least, themselves as everyone else sees them.

Before Arrested Development, my best memory of Bateman is from Teen Wolf Too. Yeah, that was a long time ago. Since Arrested Development, pretty much all he's done is play Michael Bluth. Don't get me wrong, I love that character, and I loved the series, but I'm sure he's capable of more than that. But we don't get to see it. But he's the guy to get when you need someone to play that kind of role. Like in Horrible Bosses (which I loved). Or The Change-Up. It leads to the perception, though, that this is the actor. That he's just getting these roles because this is whom he is and why get anyone else to do it. So far, it's working for Bateman.

Ryan Reynolds, not so much. I'm sure Reynolds is capable of more than just being... himself. At least, the himself that he's established through such roles as Van Wilder and Hannibal King (in Blade: Trinity). And The Change-Up. Don't get me wrong, I love him in that persona (even if it's not really who he is (although interviews with him tend to lead me to think that that is a lot of who he is)), but he's been great when he's stepped outside of that box, too, like in Definitely, Maybe (which actually made me cry) and The Proposal. The problem lies in when he's hired to "be himself" in a role in which he should be someone else. Like in Green Lantern. Because in Green Lantern, we needed to see Hal Jordan, but all we got was Ryan Reynolds in green CG tights.

Whatever the case, Reynolds and Bateman being who they are known to be really worked in The Change-Up, and I overlooked a lot of what I would have said was bad if it had been two other actors. The made it fun, and you just can't help liking them. I do want to say, though, that this idea of the highly divergent socially classed friends is a myth that doesn't work and is getting old. There have been sooo many studies done about why these friendships don't work (and they don't work, which is why they are studied) that's it getting a little overly done to keep seeing them in movies like they do work. They are, I suppose, entertaining to watch, though, and Bateman and Reynolds doing that was certainly entertaining.

As for the rest of the movie, well, the rest of the cast:

Alan Arkin was back playing what seems to be the only role he's any good for anymore: the old, crusty father with issues with his children. He's good at it, but when did that start being the only thing he's good for?

Olivia Wilde was along as the pretty face. Again. Wasn't I just talking about her? I don't see that she can act. Her part was completely interchangeable. And, I suppose, my real issue is that I just don't understand what everyone else seems to see in her. She's not that pretty. Or hot. Or whatever. Maybe, that's just me. At any rate, she didn't bring anything to the role that a dozen other actresses couldn't have brought and brought better.

Leslie Mann, on the other hand, is someone I think is attractive. And she's funny. She would have been harder to replace. Not that the role required too much from her, but she knows her comedy beats and pulled them off quite well. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone better for that role.

Anyway... I loved the movie. It made me laugh. And I was pissed off to discover that, because we netflixed it, it was one of those "blocked" dvds where the special features are on the disc, but you can't access them because it's a rental. I enjoyed the movie enough that my gut reaction was "darn, now I want to go out and buy  this, because I really want to see this stuff." But I'm not going to. Even though I want to. I'm not playing that game with those people, and it pisses me off that they make me even think about it! Bah!

If you like Ryan Reynolds, you'll probably enjoy this movie. If you like Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, you will enjoy this movie. If you like crude and inappropriate humor, you'll love this movie. If you don't... well, you should probably just stay away.


  1. I am completely guilty of watching some pretty bad movies because Berg...uh...Ryan Reynolds was in them. There's something oddly charming about him, but you are right - hard to tell if he can act based on his past roles.

  2. That's a really cool review. I like a fresh, sensitive male perspective. I wish I had seen it so I could talk about it with you. I think Jason Bateman is pretty darn funny actually, on radio shows etc. Ryan Reynolds is entertaining, attractive, and charming, but I'm not sure if there's more. Anyway thank for you pointing out that a movie can be messed up - in some of the humor that's sexist - and still be funny. I hate that idea that women being human is repulsive. Anyway I will check it out tonight. I like Leslie Mann too - she's funny, but she also makes me nervous. In the way that a bunny makes me nervous. She seems very high strung. Could be the roles.

  3. I like the actors, but just not my type of movie. And, for whatever reason, I like Olivia Wilde as well.
    And I remember Bateman from even further back, like Silver Spoons.

  4. Ha Alex, I remember him on Little House on the Prairie, that's even older! It was weird how Bateman just vanished from the early 90s until "Arrested Development." What the hell was he doing for like 10 years? Lying in a coma?

    Ryan Reynolds is good as the sarcastic goofy guy, which is one of the reasons "Green Lantern" didn't really work. "Waiting" is another presumably crappy movie that's better for him being in it.

  5. I may just be an old fogey, but I don't think women should fart in public either. I don't really think men should fart in public... but that's not the topic.

    And I'm not so good actors names, I know who Bateman and Reynolds are, but no one else you mentioned. But if you said, "you know, that lady from ____?" I'd be all over it then.

    Anyhow, I like bad movies sometimes, and your right, sometimes an otherwise lackluster film can be elevated by one person's performance, or charisma.

    Not sure I'll see this one real soon, but I might. At least I won't try hard to avoid it.

  6. I have considered this movie at least ten times when we have been renting and always just because of the actors. I do love both of them almost in spite of myself. I'll have to check it out. And I'm with Rusty, I'd prefer no one let one in public.

  7. I found this movie pretty hysterical, but I also like both actors and Leslie Mann. I like a movie that shocks a laugh out of me. It's my new favorite kind of comedy. Probably says a lot about me...

    So, yeah, when someone asks me if I recommend this movie, I have to hem and haw a bit unless I know they have a twisted sense of humor and like both actors. I was hoping for a bit of a gag from each of them on acting like the other one, personality-wise, and I didn't see a lot of the reverse characterization there, which disappointed me. I wanted to see Bateman acting like Reynolds and vice versa. More than they did. Maybe that would have made it worse, I don't know.

    Anyway, I got a kick out of the movie.

  8. I've obviously been under a rock because I haven't even heard of this one. It sounds like something my Honey would enjoy, and I'd end up watching it with him anyway.

  9. You know, I'm with you on this, I found this movie a blast. I think what I liked most is the honesty that Jason Bateman brought to the table. In an interview with Jon Stewart, he said look, this isn't a movie that's going to win awards. This is a tired old premise that we're putting a fun spin on, so just go see it, shut off your brain, and laugh. And he's right, I think it worked. He and Ryan Reynolds are just so naturally funny and charismatic that it works.

    Also, I didn't get a chance to comment on the new Tib story, so I'll do it here. It's looking great. I love that the Man with No Eyes had a bit of humanity/humility injected to him. I never thought he'd show fear, but I like it. Great depth to the character. Eagerly awaiting the next installment!

  10. I really like Olivia Wilde. I think she's quite the talented actress aside from being "the pretty face".

    And Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman are also two of my favorites. I really like how Jason has reinvented his career from the child star of the 80s.

  11. Ugh I also love both of these actors but I hated this movie! I don't know if it's because I am tired of the whole body switching thing but I did not think it was at all funny. I was cringing half the time in embarrassment for the two actors. I'm glad you liked it though :)

  12. Sarah: I haven't seen that series where he played Berg. I'll have to check it out sometime. I do think he can act; I just don't think he gets hired for it.

    Pish: Sensitive? Sensitive? Who told you that?
    I like bunnies...
    Wait! What? That wasn't me!

    Alex: Yeah, I remember Bateman in Silver Spoons, but, mostly, I remember Schroder.

    Grumpy: Oh, yeah, and I remember him in Little House. I really liked him in that.
    I forgot all about Waiting, but, yeah, it's not a great movie, but Reynolds is great in it.

    Rusty: Well, you know, it doesn't have to be in public. Some people believe women shouldn't fart.

    Nancy: And just to carry that on, I think if you do let one in public, it should be a good one and you should totally own it.

    Shannon: Shocks laughter from you, huh? Hmm... I will have to think about that one. Oh! You did see Horrible Bosses, right? Tell me you did.

    Sarah P: I hope it's a cozy rock? It came out last year some time.

    ABftS: It did work. Even my wife laughed. Most of the time.

    Glad you liked it! I'm really trying to get things going on that, but, my gosh, someone keeps stealing my time!

    Michael: I haven't seen her in anything, yet, that convinces me of that. Do you have any recommendations?

    Jennifer: What about a movie like There's Something About Mary? Cringe or laugh?

  13. I love trashy films like this, but I just know my hubbie would moan the whole way through!

    For the record, I think Olivia Wilde is stunning, but I don't think I've ever seen her in a movie, so unable to comment on her acting ability.

    Each to their own...

  14. Laugh! I love that movie I have such a weird sense of humor....I love Old School and the Legend of Ricky Bobby but movies that get hype like The Hangover I wasn't that impressed with. Some of it was funny but not pee your pants funny. Bridesmaids is hysterical!

  15. Of course I saw Horrible Bosses!

    I guess they more startle a laugh out of me than shock it out. It depends, I suppose. Anything that appeals to my sick sense of humor is good.

  16. Amanda: Evidently, a lot of people feel that way about her, but she comes off to me as a Megan Fox substitute who was a substitute for whomever was before her with Jennifer Connely in there somewhere before she became a "serious" actress and whoever was before her and so on.

    She was in the new Tron movie and Cowboys & Aliens. Not sure what else, but she didn't impress me in either of those.

    Jennifer: I just bought Bridesmaids for my wife not too long ago. She loves Kristen Wiig. We own Old School, too.

    Shannon: You know, I need to actually buy Horrible Bosses. I want to see it again.


  17. Sorry, but any woman (or man for that matter) who refuses to close the door and shits on a toilet while talking about how their shit stinks DESERVES to be treated the way the Leslie Mann character was. The directors of these movies act as if couples shitting in front of each other is normal. It isn't. There is a reason why people don't shit in front of each other, unless they are two years old. Leslie Mann did the same thing in Funny People, she kept pissing in front of her husband, which makes me think, maybe this is a normal habit that Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow engage in in real life. Ok. Then your are filthy, trashy, disgusting people. I didn't get that scene at all. The only impression I got was that this is somehow "normal" behavior between couples. It's not. And if you come on here disagreeing with me, then you are not normal.

    No. Women who fart and talk about their poop are disgusting. Men who fart and talk about their poop are disgusting. If some guy I liked decided to purposely leave the door open while shitting on the toilet right in front of me, I would have reacted the same way the character did. I would no longer be attracted to said individual. If the actor wanted me to feel sorry for Leslie Mann and the way she was treated, then they failed terribly. I only felt disgust for the character.

    I did not feel sorry for the character crying the next day. If you want someone to find you attractive don't shit in front of people and share every gory detail about the contents of your bowels. I don't care how long you two are married for.

  18. To the person that didn't leave his/her name: Personally, I close the door. However, that's a personal preference. If two people have reached a point where they don't care if the door is open or closed, it's not for me to judge them about their own preferences.

    However, the point is not about whether a woman should close the door while she is on the toilet or not. The point is, as a society, we have decided that women have to be some certain way that is unrealistic; we expect them to be, well, dolls. And function just like dolls. I think these attitudes are wrong and this kind of humor supports those attitudes.