Directed by: David Dobkin (Fred Claus)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin
David Dobkin—aided and abetted by screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past)—set out the prove that the body-swapping comedy not dead. If it wasn’t already dead—and Mark Waters’ successful Freaky Friday remake in 2003 suggests it wasn’t all that dead—they have not only killed it, but mutilated the corpse by a desperate attempt to raunch it up. Despite one good scene, an amusing awareness of the sexual side of inhabiting someone else’s body, and a funny final exchange between the two leads based on that awareness, this is a movie where pretty nearly everything is just plain wrong.
Let’s start with the casting. Now, I like Jason Bateman fine, and even though I think Ryan Reynolds peaked in Blade: Trinity (2004), I have nothing against him. The problem is that I’m not buying them as having been friends since third grade—unless Reynolds was in third grade and Bateman was in high school. Sure, there’s only a seven-year age difference between the two, but it’s a difference that really shows here. That to one side, the fact is the film hands them two not-very-likable characters (read: jerks) and expects them to coast through it on their own innately pleasant screen personas—and it doesn’t work.
Then there’s the raunch factor. I don’t in the least have an aversion to swearing—as those who know me will be glad to attest, I’m sure—but these people swear like amateurs, or like 12-year-olds who just learned a “bad” word and want to impress people. The nonstop, random and often peculiar permutations of “f**k” feel forced and awkward—and certainly not funny to anyone past the level of Beavis and Butthead. And is sex with a nine-month-pregnant woman really funny? Of course, there’s always that old standby—gross-out humor. There’s no shortage here. One might even say that the film is almost fixated on bodily functions. I suppose it should be noted that it’s pretty upfront about this, since in the movie’s first scene Jason Bateman gets hit in the face with projectile baby diarrhea (you saw this in the trailer), followed by him getting a mouthful of it (that wasn’t in the trailer). You know—intellectual humor.
The plot? Well, it’s not much of anything. Old friends Mitch (Reynolds) and Dave (Bateman) take a leak in a park fountain while wishing they had each other’s life. Cue thunder and lightning—and they wake up in each other’s body. Deciding they can reverse the process by repeating their assault on the makeshift urinal, they find it’s been taken away for “restoration,” which leads to much bureaucratic nonsense just to track the damned thing down. Meanwhile they must try to live each other’s lives. Originality is not high here.
On the vague plus side, Leslie Mann has one funny scene where she unloads her troubles on a hapless baby-sitter. Also, somewhere around the last reel, director Dobkin has a mysterious outburst of stylishness—and this after he really botched an opportunity for a clever montage—that makes the picture briefly interesting as filmmaking. And there’s the previously mentioned business of the sexuality awareness brought about by being in someone else’s body. But none of this is enough to make this mess worth sitting through, especially since the rest of it is so utterly dire. Rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use.