We’re certainly not the first to say it, but the R-rated Comedy New Wave (La Nouvelle Vulgaire?) is raking in the dough. Once something you had to watch on Comedy Central after midnight, the turn of the century has seen the raunchy comedy genre steadily edging its way into guaranteed box office (and DVD sales) gold. And, arguably, “The Change-Up” director David Dobkin was amongst its pioneers. With 2005’s “Wedding Crashers,” the filmmaker managed to create an R-rated comedy but with enough broad appeal that it provided quality laughs, as well as ticket sales — a lot of ticket sales (over $280 million worldwide). Since then, similar comedies like “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids” have been giving your typical summer blockbuster a run for their money, and this weekend Dobkin is stepping up to the plate again with “The Change-Up,” a less-than-wholesome take on the body-switch comedy genre starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds. We recently had the opportunity to hear from the director on his new film, as well as what he had to say about the genre itself and his approach to going Gross Out.
In Dobkin’s opinion, as the popularity of R-rated comedies grows, continuing to inch closer and closer to the line of what audiences are willing to laugh at becomes an important point. “You can’t do the same thing, you want to push boundaries…now that you’re in the arena, if you’re going to go do it, do it. Stretch it see where people will go…why do we design rollercoasters with an upside down loop on it? Everybody’s supposed to get a little sick, that’s the fun of it. For some people more than others,” says the director.
And for some, certainly, not fun at all. Dobkin notes the phenomenon of watching test audiences laugh at gags in theatres, then turnaround and say that the film crosses the line. “You’d be surprised how hard people laugh and say later they didn’t like it — you’ll watch audiences laugh and afterwards when you ask them what they thought, they say ‘that was too far.’ ” But finding that balance between what’s funny and what’s offensive is a dance that any director in the genre will be navigating, and Dobkin and the studio relied heavily on the litmus test of preview screenings to see where they should re-consider going. “On set we go as far as we can, and then I pull back in the editing room based on what the test audiences say. We test these comedies a lot,” he said.
But Dobkin, who admits to finding some of the material that ultimately remained in the film to be “shocking,” even to himself, insists it’s still all in good fun. “I don’t know what to say other than that we’re an equal opportunity offender,” he laughs. “There’s nowhere this movie doesn’t go but I think that’s part of the spirit of it. And I think the characters have a sweetness that you understand they don’t know any better, it’s not being said from a dark, malicious place it’s just an idiot who is saying it [particularly Reynold’s character, Mitch], and he grows up and I think that’s part of what’s satisfying about this arc is his growth through that, he’s a bit of a dum-dum.”
You can get to know the dum-dum and the rest of “The Change-Up” at your local multiplex right now. The film opens today.