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IMAGE: Bateman on Valerie, Bateman now
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Jason Bateman has come a long way from his 1987 role on "Valerie."
TODAY contributor
updated 8/2/2011 5:01:20 PM ET 2011-08-02T21:01:20

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.

Story: Switch should have stayed off for 'Change-Up'

“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.

Story: 'Change-Up' premise sounds awfully 'Freaky'

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.

Video: Reynolds, Batemen pull swap for 'Change Up' (on this page)

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.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: '80s heartthrobs, then and now

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  1. Jason Bateman

    His sister, Justine Bateman, rose to fame as Mallory on "Family Ties," but her little brother didn't need long to catch up. Jason Bateman starred on Valerie Harper's sitcom "Valerie" in the late 1980s after starring as a teen scam artist on "It's Your Move." He staged a comeback in the 2000s, winning awards for his role as Michael Bluth on "Arrested Development" and going on to star in "Juno," "The Switch," "Horrible Bosses" and "The Change-Up." (NBC/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Matthew Broderick

    Matthew Broderick’s career began on the stage, with leading roles in plays such as "Torch Song Trilogy" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs." He made his first move to the big screen in 1983 in "Max Dugan Returns." That same year, he played teen hacker David Lightman in "WarGames." In 1986, he took on the iconic role of Ferris in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off," which remains one of his best known roles. He married Sarah Jessica Parker in 1997, and has continued to star in roles both in film and on the stage, most notably as Leo Bloom in the musical "The Producers." (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. John Cusack

    John Cusack began his film career as a member of Farmer Ted’s nerd posse in “Sixteen Candles” in 1984. The following year he moved into a starring role, making a cross-country journey with Daphne Zuniga to meet “The Sure Thing.” But it was his role as lovelorn Lloyd Dobler in 1989’s “Say Anthing” that gained him lasting fame. He has since gone on to star in such films as “Grosse Point Blank,” “High Fidelity,” “Serendipity,” “2012” and “Hot Tub Time Machine.” (20th Century Fox / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Denzel Washington

    Denzel Washington got his early start to superstardom playing Dr. Philip Chandler for six seasons on the hospital drama "St. Elsewhere." He gained big-screen fame in 1984 for his work in “A Soldier’s Story,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination. He received his first Oscar in 1989 for his supporting role in “Glory.” He went on to receive a best actor Oscar in 2001 for “Training Day.” (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Johnny Depp

    Long before he became Willy Wonka and Captain Jack, Johnny Depp began his career on the teen TV drama “21 Jump Street,” a show which made him a teen idol. Uncomfortable in the role of entertainment “product,” Depp left the show and opted instead to accept only film roles that felt like a good fit for him. His first step into that arena was playing “Edward Scissorhands” in 1990. And the rest is history. (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Don Johnson

    Primarily a stage and film actor in the '70s, Don Johnson soared to Versace-clad stardom in 1984 playing Det. Sonny Crockett on the hit series “Miami Vice.” The show, which partnered him with Philip Michael Thomas, ran until 1989. During the '80s, Johnson also released two albums. The title single to his album “Heartbeat” reached No. 5 on the Billboard charts in 1986. He went on to star in the series “Nash Bridges” in the '90s. He recently had a recurring role on the HBO comedy series “Eastbound & Down." (NBC / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Fred Savage

    Fred Savage is best known for playing Kevin Arnold on the hit TV series “The Wonder Years.” During his run on the show, he earned two Emmy nominations for best actor in a comedy series, becoming the youngest actor to receive the honor. In 1987, he played the ailing grandson opposite Peter Falk in the movie “The Princess Bride.” Since the end of “The Wonder Years” in 1993, Savage has appeared in largely guest and supporting roles. (ABC / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Harrison Ford

    While Harrison Ford reached star status in the late 1970s for playing space hero Han Solo in “Star Wars,” he gained superstar status in the 1980s playing swashbuckling archeologist Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He also starred in the sci-fi classic “Blade Runner” (1982) and “Witness,” (1985) for which he received an Oscar nomination for best actor. (Paramount Pictures / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. James Spader

    While his first major film role was playing Brooke Shields’ brother in “Endless Love” in 1981, James Spader became a teen-age household name in 1986 playing Steff, Molly Ringwald’s foil, in 1986’s “Pretty in Pink.” He went on to appear in “Mannequin” and “Less Than Zero” before his breakthrough performance as a sexual voyeur in “sex lies and videotape” in 1989. He continued to enjoy success in various film roles in the '90s before gaining small-screen stardom as lawyer Alan Shore in the series “Boston Legal,” a role that earned Spader an Emmy Award. In 2011-12 he had a recurring role on "The Office." (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. John Stamos

    John Stamos found early heartthrob fame playing Blackie Parrish on TV’s “General Hospital” before being cast as Uncle Jesse on the comedy “Full House.” Although the show was cancelled in 1995, he remains close the his series co-stars, including Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Jodie Sweetin and Bob Saget. He went on to star as Dr. Gates on “ER” in the '90s and recently recurred on “Glee.” (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Judd Nelson

    A member of the “Brat Pack,” Judd Nelson rose to fame playing Bender in 1984’s “The Breakfast Club.” He also starred with other “Brat Packers” in “St. Elmo’s Fire.” However, following his early fame, his career failed to take off until being cast in the TV sitcom “Suddenly Susan” in 1996. (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Keanu Reeves

    Keanu Reeves began his career in a small role opposite Rob Lowe in the teen hockey drama “Youngbloods” before getting his first major role in 1986’s “The River’s Edge.” From there he was cast as airhead Ted in the teen comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” an unexpected box office success. The film spawned the sequel “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” He spent the '90s trying to break free of teen-film casting, earning roles in “My Own Private Idaho” and “Point Break” before starring opposite Sandra Bullock in “Speed” in 1994 and 1999’s hit “The Matrix.” (Orion Pictures / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kirk Cameron

    Kirk Cameron began his career doing commercials at age 9 before being cast on the TV series “Two Marriages” at age 10. He rose to fame in 1985 playing smart-aleck Mike Seaver on “Growing Pains,” a role that made him a cover favorite on teen magazines Tiger Beat and 16. He enjoyed some film success in the late '80s in movies such as “Like Father Like Son” opposite Dudley Moore. He now works primarily on Christian-themed productions. (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Matt Dillon

    Matt Dillon came to fame in prominent roles in the film adaptations of S. E. Hinton novels “Tex (1982), “The Outsiders” (1983) and “Rumble Fish” (1983). His next film was 1984’s “The Flamingo Kid” before playing a drug addict in 1989’s “Drugstore Cowboy.” He continued to enjoy success in the '90s in films such as “Singles,” “To Die For,” “Wild Things” and “There’s Something About Mary.” (Everett Collection / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Andrew McCarthy

    Andrew McCarthy gained fame in the '80s as a dreamy teen leading man in films such as “Class,” “Pretty in Pink” and “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Even Molly Ringwald, his “Pretty in Pink” co-star, claimed to have a crush on him. He starred in the film “Fresh Horses” and the comedy “Weekend at Bernie’s.” He is ranked No. 40 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Teen Stars. (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Philip Michael Thomas

    Philip Michael Thomas gained fame as Don Johnson’s partner, Ricardo Tubbs, in the hit TV series “Miami Vice.” He later reunited on screen with Johnson on “Nash Bridges.” (Everett Collection / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Michael J. Fox

    Michael J. Fox became an instant fan favorite in 1982 playing young conservative Alex P. Keaton in the hit comedy “Family Ties.” He won three Emmy Awards (1986-88) for the role. During the peak of his “Ties” fame, Fox took on the role of Marty McFly in the movie comedy “Back to the Future,” which spawned two sequels. In 1991 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is semi-retired from acting now, but he does have a recurring role on TV drama "The Good Wife." (NBC / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Ralph Macchio

    Ralph Macchio’s first major role was playing Jeremy on TV’s “Eight Is Enough.” He also was among the stellar cast of “The Outsiders,” playing Johnny Cade in 1983. The next year, he became a star playing Daniel LaRusso in “The Karate Kid.” His first significant adult role didn’t come until 1992 when he played incarcerated “yoot” opposite Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny.” In 2011, he tripped the light fantastic on "Dancing with the Stars." (Columbia TriStar / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Rob Lowe

    Rob Lowe rose to fame as a member of the “Brat Pack,” co-starring in movies such as “The Outsiders,” “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “About Last Night.” In 1988, a videotape of him having sex with two women, one underage, was leaked to the media. The tape derailed his career but after entering rehab for alcohol and sex addiction, he rebounded and enjoyed success in the 1990s series “The West Wing.” He currently appears on the sitcom "Parks and Recreation." (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Sean Penn

    Sean Penn began his extensive film career in the 1981 teen drama “Taps,” in which he played a military school cadet opposite Tom Cruise and Timothy Hutton. One year later, he became the standout star of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” playing surfer-stoner Jeff Spicoli. From there, he took on dramatic roles in “Bad Boys” (1983) and 1985’s “The Falcon and the Snowman.” He went on to receive two Academy Awards for his work in “Dead Man Walking” and “Milk.” (Everett Collection / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Kiefer Sutherland

    Kiefer Sutherland, the son of actor Donald Sutherland, started his career as menacing bully Ace in the 1986 film “Stand By Me.” He went on to play David in the teen vampire hit “The Lost Boys” in 1987, and opposite Emilio Estevez in “Young Guns.” He found breakout fame, however, in 2001 playing Jack Bauer in the hit series “24,” for which he won an Emmy Award in 2006. His latest TV series, "Touch," premiered in 2012. (Warner Bros. / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Timothy Hutton

    Timothy Hutton began his movie career in a big way, playing suicidal teen Conrad Jarrett in 1980’s “Ordinary People,” a role that earned him a best supporting actor Oscar. From there he starred with Sean Penn in “Taps” in 1981 and in “The Falcon and the Snowman” in 1985. He is currently starring in the TV series “Leverage.” (Orion Pictures / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Tom Cruise

    Tom Cruise began his meteoric rise to superstardom in the '80s, beginning in teen films such as “Endless Love” and “Taps” in 1981. In 1983, he had his first starring role in “Losin’ It” before taking the career-changing role of Joel in “Risky Business.” In 1986, his career took off -- literally --in “Top Gun.” That same year, he starred in “The Color of Money” with Paul Newman. Two years later, he starred opposite Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” and finished the decade with “Born on the Fourth of July.” (Everett Collection / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Val Kilmer

    Val Kilmer gained fame playing a rock 'n' roll star in 1984’s “Top Secret!” In the film, he sang all the songs. In 1985, he starred in “Real Genius” before playing Tom Cruise’s nemesis, Iceman, in “Top Gun.” He starred as Madmartigan in “Willow” in 1988. He went on to play Jim Morrison in 1991’s “The Doors,” Doc Holliday in 1993’s “Tombstone” and The Caped Crusader in “Batman Forever” (1995). (Paramount Pictures / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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