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Bad Movie Tuesday: The Change Up

November 15, 2011

I feel the need to break down this film without being too Negative. Saying that a film is bad is too easy.  I am going to look at the science of why it is bad as opposed to just saying The Change-Up sucks. Like it or not there is a formula to gross out comedies. If you do it right the film will makes millions. If you do it wrong it becomes The Change-Up.

Here is what I think happened. The director David Dobkin is a known commodity (Wedding Crashers) and the writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore  are responsible forThe Hangover. This team is reliable and they managed to cast Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman and Leslie Mann in the leads. From what I hear the original script was great but somewhere along the way things got murky. The people got cocky and ditched the plot and decided to put the actors in funny seemingly funny situations.

The problem is that putting actors in situations and expecting them to be funny rarely works. They need to build a funny/creative situation and the hilarity will follow. You cannot force funny. I call it the Chevy Chase effect.

Chevy Chase was once considered one of the funniest men alive because he could
underplay just about anything. He could be funny without knowing he was funny. However, when people starting putting him in ridiculous situations it didn’t work. Chase was trying to be funny. Years ago  he got laughs by simply talking to his kid while in the middle of the desert. However, Vegas Vacation had him climbing the Hoover Dam. This is a trend that happens all the time. Look at the Fonz “jumping the shark” or Indiana Jones “nuking the fridge.”

This film jumps the shark when in the first minute a CGI baby butt shoots poops all over Bateman’s face. A critic from the Houston Chronicle sums up the movie perfectly when she said movie abounds with  “Pee-pee humor. There’s also a lot of poo-poo humor. And ta-ta humor.”

There are naked pregnant women, ball shaving, vomit, poop, masturbation, 345 F bombs, guys peeing in front of children, horrible advice, thumbs in butts and more poop. None of it is funny because none of it movies the story forward. It becomes juvenile. The director must have thought people would laugh because Jason Bateman is doing something gross to Ryan Reynolds.

The majority of these gross things have been done much better in other films. Dumb and Dumber, Brides Maids, Kingpin, Hot Tub Time Machine, Clerks, Mall Rats, She’s Out of my League and American Pie. These movies have featured incredibly gross things yet they have been successful. The reason for this is they move the plot forward.

A perfect example of a hilarious scene is in the Farrelly brother classic There’s Something About Mary.  Do you remember the Franks and beans shot?  Not only is it hilarious but it sets up Ben Stiller losing Mary. He doesn’t randomly get his nuggets zipped. This scene is a tactical plot point that intelligently deals with gross. Ben Stiller is not rude, crude or dumb. He is nervous and likable.

I like Hot Tub Time Machine a lot. It has tons of raunch and profanity but when it comes down to it the guys are friends and would do anything for each other…..They are jerks and self-absorbed but you like them. That is why the movie works.
In The Change Up you have no reason to like the characters. They are rude, angry and non intelligent. Bateman is dissatisfied with his life and Reynolds is the lazy slacker who can only be found in movies. There is no reason to like them and their bodies switch so quickly that you never really know who the other is.

The Change-Up could have been a solid flick but they messed up the equation. Next time hopefully they stick to the formula.


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