Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: David Dobkin
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Eric Edwards
WRITERS: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
MUSIC: John Debney, Theodore Shapiro
Tell me if you heard this one before. Two people, fed up with the stress of their lives, are envious of each other. One night, while the mysteries of the universe are wide awake, they wish they could switch with one another. Sure enough, they awake the next day to realize that their wish has come true. Sounds like comedy gold, right? I mean, it’s worked several other films such as “Freaky Friday”.
This time around, it’s Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) who make the fateful wish that turns their lives upside down. Dave is an overworked lawyer with three kids who just might want to kill him and a wife he can’t seem to connect with anymore. Mitch is a stoned, semi-employed actor who is living the life of the ultimate slacker.
Once they switch, it’s very familiar territory. There are several misadventures when they realize what has happened, they enjoy filling in for one another and then they finally realize that their original lives weren’t so bad after all. Now, the story may be tried and true, but at least the screenwriters could have created characters that the audience actually cared about.
Bateman approaches Dave similar to the way that he played Nick Hendricks in “Horrible Bosses”. Only this time, his character has no real reason to complain and his selfishness gets in the way of any likability or generosity that the audience might feel for him. Screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore must have known this because they try to make life with his children at the beginning of the film as horrible as possible and it doesn’t work.
Mitch obviously needs to grow up. While he does attempt to learn something in the film, he still ends up being a douchebag by the end of the story. The only attempt to garner any favor for the character is a weak ass attempt at delivering a clichéd father/son conflict with Alan Arkin playing the dad.
With the tired plot device, Lucas and Moore had to try something to bring the laughs. Instead of creating characters that are worth a damn, they decided to fill the film with as many dirty jokes that they could think of with one joke in particular that literally contains shit. The two writers previously worked together on “The Hangover” so it shouldn’t be expected that the film would be clean but they somehow managed to take it too far.
I can’t say that the film is all bad. There are some funny moments scattered throughout. However, everyone is trying so hard that it’s inevitable that some of the jokes would find their mark. Reynolds and Bateman are actually funnier in the first fifteen minutes before their characters switch. In the rest of the film, though, they can’t pull off the switch and can’t save their characters or the story.
The other characters also suffer. Leslie Mann plays Dave’s unattended wife and essentially plays the same pissed off and depressed wife that she played in “Knocked Up”. Mann can be genuinely funny but she is wasted with this film.
Olivia Wilde plays a forgettable character that is only there to serve as foil for Dave after the switch. Like the rest of the talent in the film, Wilde shouldn’t be here and hopefully she will be able to find better material in the future. The R rating brings with it a subtle dose of irony. Those who could possibly find this movie funny won’t be allowed to view it at the theater.