The posters I’ve seen for the Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman film “The Change-Up” succeeded only in repulsing me. Based on some professional experience, I presume that is never the intent of a competent advertising campaign for anything. My curiosity aroused, I went to the film’s official site, where I discovered the following image:
An extremely excited, even given the circumstances, Reynolds is holding up two underwear models — or, as this most likely takes place in the film world of male fantasy, probably a barely dressed tax attorney and an art gallery owner. Based on how they are positioned relative to Reynolds, they must weigh no more than 100 pounds combined or perhaps the look on his face is an expression of pain from the resulting hernia that will cut short their evening.
I should also add that there’s been only 4 independently corroborated and factually verified threesomes in the history of western civilization and they all involved Gene Simmons. Yet, most TV shows and movies of the past 20 years make it seem as if they are as common as public figures sending photos of their private parts to random women they met on the Internet.
Reynolds’ delight is set in contrast to Bateman’s despair as he contends joylessly with his two children (they must be his, as basic etiquette demands that you don’t look like you want to hang yourself when holding someone else’s kids). The similarity in attire and behavior of the two babies and the two babes makes the infantilization of Reynolds’ playthings pretty overt.
This image is actually not as offensive as the ones I’d seen on buses and subways, which feature close-ups of the leads. Bateman is still visibly annoyed, as one of his burdens picks his nose. Reynolds, apparently told he was filming a sequel to “American Psycho,” smirks predatorily as his companion — he’s down to one now — plays with his face with her feet. I’m uncertain and uninterested as to the physics behind this.
The other official poster, which I found online, is as Darcy said in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “the worst of the three.” Reynolds’s actions actually manage to divert Bateman’s attention from his mewling brats. The tax attorney’s hand is missing, much to Reynolds’s pleasure, and the art gallery owner is a photoshop collage. I don’t think her head, arm, or back belong to the same person.
The posters also make a point of informing me that the film is from the director of “Wedding Crashers” and the writers of “The Hangover.” I didn’t see either of these movies, so this campaign has not even come close to tempting open my wallet. But I am left wondering what the film is actually about, if anything, so off to YouTube I go for the trailer.
OK, 18 seconds in and we have a visible baby poop joke, which literally appears over the words “family man,” as we’re introduced to the suburban hell of Dave (Bateman). Another 10 seconds and we meet “single man” Mitch, who despite living in a hellhole has a gorgeous woman showing up and removing her clothes. By the way, I lived in a crappy New York apartment and my life was more like this:
After a minute and 15 seconds, we get the concept: Single man and family man trade lives while publicly urinating. Sometimes it’s best not to try and explain it.
The trailer is actually less awful than the posters, which you’d expect to turn up in a Susan Faludi lecture. Reynolds and Bateman are personable actors, but the premise is tiresome and consistently one-sided as depicted in media. Men love being single as they physically channel surf through an idealized female population. Women can’t stand it and fear dying alone even if they’re still in their early 20s. The ladies in “Sex and the City” didn’t even enjoy being single and they were the most emulated women of the ’90s.
Although the swinging single/married schlub trope is not new, it has altered a bit over the years. The prototypical single man was more a woman’s fantasy — think Cary Grant or Rock Hudson — than an overgrown adolescent in a dirty apartment. His sexual exploits would have been subtly implied in a poster by unkempt hair, his collar askew, and lipstick prints on his cheeks. The owner of the lips would be more Grace Kelly glamorous than objectified extra from central casting. His married counterpart might envy him — while also acknowledging that he was never Cary Grant in the first place — but the focus of Bateman’s agony is less that he’s had to grow up and become his father. Once upon a time, you could still be Don Draper and be married with kids. No, his horror is in having become his mother, which makes “The Change-Up” less about the stereotypical loss of freedom that comes with marriage but more about the perceived, post-feminist loss of masculinity itself.