— Jason Bateman first arrived in pop culture 30 years ago on “Little House on the Prairie,” and has found steady work ever since. “The Change-Up,” which stars Bateman and Ryan Reynolds in a body-swap comedy, opens this weekend.
Though he’s played a wide range of parts in Hollywood, we can fit his entertainment career into four phases.
Phase I: Justine Bateman’s little brother
Bateman first came to prominence on the small screen, going from “Little House on the Prairie” to a regular spot on “Silver Spoons” as the snobby friend of Ricky Schroeder. A fondly remembered role as Matthew Burton on “It’s Your Move” followed, as did the part of David Hogan in “Valerie.” And of course, any 1980s movie buff remembers him starring in “Teen Wolf Too.”
A nice run for any child actor. But this was the stretch when big sister Justine was playing Mallory Keaton on the iconic sitcom “Family Ties,” so all those roles couldn’t even make him the most popular actor at his own dinner table.
Phase II: 'Didn't you used to be Jason Bateman?'
“Valerie” (renamed “Valerie’s Family” and then "The Hogan Family" after Valerie Harper left), went off the air in 1991. And then … then came a little dry spell.
“This Can’t Be Love” was a TV movie with a dazzling cast, but it’s tough to stand out alongside Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Quinn. He landed major parts on “Simon,” “Chicago Sons,” George & Leo” and “Some of My Best Friends,” but do you remember the plot of any of those shows? Neither does anyone else.
For a while, it looked grim.
Phase III: Who knew Jason Bateman was so funny?
“Arrested Development” was the game-changer. Bateman's Michael Bluth became one of the iconic characters of the first decade of the new century, and the actor more than held his own alongside a strong cast and excellent writing.
But don’t forget about his appearance in “Dodgeball.” That was Bateman at his absolute funniest. He and Gary Cole stole an otherwise forgettable film in their role as broadcasters, and as ex-Dodgeball legend Pepper Brooks he cut loose in a way that he doesn’t get to now that he’s…
Phase IV: Jason Bateman … one of the best supporting actors around
Bateman isn’t likely to carry a film, unlike his “Change-Up” co-star Ryan Reynolds.
But he’s found a comfort zone playing a strong supporting role on the big screen. From “The Break-Up” to “Juno” to “Hancock” to “Up in the Air” to “Couples Retreat,” he’s gotten a lot of play at being the straight man, the oblivious guy, or the repressed guy who the lead comic star finally encourages to cut loose.
As part of an ensemble he never fails to disappoint. And he’s officially no longer just Justine Bateman’s little bro.