Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, The Switch


Review in a Hurry: For a movie that's supposed to be filled with sympathetic, lonely people, it's tough to care whether Wally (Jason Bateman) and Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) hook up in the end. The story is boosted by some decent acting and a few genuine laughs, but not enough to justify the cost of a theater ticket.

The Big Picture: Meet Wally, who secretly loves Kassie, who has a son named Sebastian. I would guess the characters in The Switch were named after a doll collection owned by the writer's 7-year-old daughter, but given how little this movie reflects real families, I wonder if any of the filmmakers actually have kids.

The premise of the film is simple, at least, for 2010: Singleton New Yorker Kassie, her ol' biological clock ticking, wants a child. It has to be her own—adoption never gets a mention—but Kassie has no mate.

Sure, there's Wally, Kassie's best friend. He is a guy, so he has sperm going for him. But Wally also has problems—chronic pessimism, for one, hypochondria, for another. Wally works hard at a good job and is a loyal friend, but, for Kassie, Wally's attitude doesn't exactly make him ideal dad material.

So Kassie buys some semen off of a smug blond guy named Roland—smugness is OK in a potential dad, pessimism is not—and throws an "insemination party" to celebrate her foray into single motherhood.

Wounded Wally gets drunk at the insemination party. He replaces the, um, seed with his own, but doesn't remember anything afterward. The result of this hijacking, natch, is Sebastian, who is clearly Wally's mini-me.

At age 6, Sebastian (cutie Thomas Robinson) engages in long, fatalistic monologues that are bound to get the child actor critical acclaim. His delivery is quite good—certainly more nuanced than Aniston's, whose mannered style is often endearing, if not trapped in the 1990s sitcom style that made her famous.

The problem with Sebastian's character isn't the actor; it's the script. Even in the realm of film comedy, no 6-year-old talks like this, and his dreary observations packed with three-syllable words grow old quickly. It's from the cheap, Family Guy school of comedy; fans of Stewie will love Sebastian.

For all of the media rounds Aniston has made to promote The Switch, this is Bateman's movie. His comic timing, improv skills and subtle depth are all on display here. People who aren't familiar with Bateman's work may actually find themselves fans by the time they finish watching. It's just a shame that Bateman didn't get the benefit of a smarter script or more imaginative direction. At no point does the story ever veer into a unpredictable territory. It does get a good dose of dry irony from supporting actor Jeff Goldblum as Wally's boss, but that's about it.

The writers and directors—all men—also don't seem to realize that they may be insulting the very women whose movie dollar they seek. For a movie that has provoked so much wingnut ire, the message plays right into the hands of the Family Research Council.

Little Sebastian's obsession with picture frames masks a tear-jerking need for a grand-dad who takes him fly fishing; Wally is allergic to kids until the magical love of a child cures him of this "problem;" and Aniston herself is, of course, incomplete until she settles down with the biological father of her child.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Did we mention how good Jason Bateman is?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share