The Switch: A Nice Mix of Heart & Humor

20 08 2010

Based off the short story Baster by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Switch (which, while not quiet as colorful a title, is probably more palatable to general audiences) teams up veteran comic actors Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. Here’s the breakdown:

Kassie is tired of waiting for her love life to take off before having a child. She decides to seek out a sperm donor and have a kid on her own terms. But her best friend (and former boyfriend), Wally, doesn’t think it’s such a good idea. On the night of her “insemination party,” Wally, in a drunken stupor, switches the intended sperm donor’s “ingredients” (as they call it in the film) for his own. The kicker: he doesn’t remember doing it.  Fast forward seven years later, when Wally is first introduced to Kassie’s son, Sebastian. Soon, he realizes there’s something special about Sebastian – but what does it mean and how will it effect his relationship with Kassie?

The Monkey: Both Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston are great to watch onscreen. Putting the two of them together was a brilliant move. They have very similar styles of comic timing and delivery, making their best-friend relationship seem genuine and unforced. But it’s not all laughs – both Bateman and Aniston are able to deliver some emotional moments as well. Aniston has a wonderful scene where she tells Wally about the “seed man,” the story she told Sebastian about how he was born. But it’s Bateman that carries the emotional weight in The Switch, particularly in his scenes with Sebastian.

While these two actors carry the movie well, the wonderful supporting cast takes this movie to a refreshing level of quality most romantic comedies fail to reach. Jeff Goldblum as Wally’s snarky boss is hilarious and well cast. Juliette Lewis plays a similar role, as Kassie’s best friend, Debbie, and she makes her limited screen time count. And then you have Thomas Robinson as Sebastian. Being cute can only take a child actor so far; luckily, Robinson has what it takes to deliver some laughs and keep the audience emotionally connected. I definitely won’t look at picture frames the same way again.

The most original part of The Switch was the perspective. Most romantic comedies seem to be about the women. In this case, Wally is the main protagonist, the one who goes through the character development arc. The fact that The Switch had a character development arc at all is a testament to its solid script and quality acting.

It was nice to see a different side to the romance-comedy-with-a-cute-kid formula. Bateman and Robinson work very well together, evoking Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry in Kramer vs. Kramer. Also, I think it’s a step in the right direction to tell the “alternative family” story. After all, how many “insemination party” scenes have you seen in movies?

The Weasel: Unfortunately, almost every romantic comedy suffers from this, and The Switch is no different: predictability. The plot is extremely predictable, offering up little in the way of clever plotting or surprising revelations.

I was disappointed with Patrick Wilson. His performance as Roland, the sperm donor, could have been more inspired, but he seemed to fade into the background, never really grounding the character to the rest of the movie. The script may have contributed to this, but a lackluster delivery didn’t help any.

In addition, I think The Switch was mis-marketed. While it was funny at times, it was much more of a drama.

The Switch remains watchable, even enjoyable, despite its conventional plot. The “alternative family” approach and Bateman’s solid performance makes this movie worth your time and money. I just hope the botched marketing campaign doesn’t hurt The Switch at the box office.

3.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Do you think Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston make a good team? Was The Switch more of a comedy or a drama? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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