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The Change-Up

The first five minutes of The Change-Up—a horrifying look into the world of late-night baby care, complete with one of the more grotesque poop-to-face shots ever captured on film—sums up the movie's bait-and-switch. In most comedies, this scene would be the first step towards a descent into hell that only Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Adam Sandler are capable of realizing. In The Change-Up, it's a sequence that sets the bar as low as artistically possible, so stars Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds can obliterate expectations with equally raunchy, shocking and hilarious comedic stylings. Simply put, The Change-Up is the funniest movie of the year.

Bateman plays Dave Lockwood, a run-of-the-mill lawyer who works too hard, juggles his parenting duties and struggles to find time to tell his wife he loves her. Dave's best friend Mitch (Reynolds) couldn't be more of the opposite—sleeping all day and spending his conscious hours wooing sexual partners while stoned out of his mind. The two are polar opposites, making them the perfect candidates for a little bit of switcheroo magic. One particularly devastating night of alcohol and lamenting life's woes ends with the duo taking a leak into a magical fountain (go with it). Fate, of course, intervenes and when Dave and Mitch wake up, they find themselves trapped in the one another's bodies.

There's no denying The Change-Up follows the Freaky Friday formula—but that's not a fault. The logic is already established, giving Bateman, Reynolds and director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) freedom to jump right into the crass humor hook. Bateman, who's becoming a go-to straight man in Hollywood, finds a refreshing opportunity in inhabiting Reynold's Mitch. The character's lack of self-censorship opens the floodgates for Bateman to poetically surface some of the English language's more horrendous sentences. A slang dictionary may be required to understand what bizarre body part synonyms are being dropped at rapid pace in this movie. Whether you comprehended them or not, when they come out of Bateman's mouth, they're priceless.

Same goes for Reynolds, who escapes the box of fast-talking womanizer to play the uncomfortable family man. Judging an actor's versatility on a scene in which he's unwillingly placed at the center of a ''lorno'' (read: low-budget soft core pornography), but Reynolds sells it and makes it perfectly agonizing. Even obvious scenarios like, ''uh oh, Dave's going to have to cheat on his wife in Mitch's body!'' are twisted once, twice, three times over to pull the rug from under you.

The biggest surprise of The Change-Up is the movie's heart. Pummeling an audience with jokes is one thing, but to sell genuine relationships underneath it makes it satisfying. The wavering friendship between the two lead knuckleheads is tangible and keeps an impossible plot device grounded, while Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, Funny People), as Dave's wife Jamie, has her fair share of tender moments (as well as devilish laughs—there's a reason her husband Judd Apatow keeps casting her). In a movie that's constructed by textbook rules, to have an ending that resonates with any sort of emotion is as surprising as watching a grown man toss a baby down next to a set of steak knives. Which, coincidentally, also happens in the movie.

In today's world where anything goes, it's hard to whip up slapstick and one-liners that feel edgy and that leave your jaw on the floor. That's how The Change-Up hits—and it hits hard. rated this film 4 1/2 stars.