The Switch

8 Sep

Title: The Switch
Year: 2010
Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Writer: Allan Loeb
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis, Jeff Goldblum, Todd Louiso, Thomas Robinson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language
Runtime: 101 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%

The Switch is considered to be one of the most disappointing films of the summer, commercially speaking. Sure, in the twenty days it has spent in theaters so far it has made a bit over $22 million, which is more than its reported $19 million budget, add to that the reported $6.6 million from foreign markets and you could say that at least the film hasn’t made anyone lose any serious cash. But come on, this is a film that stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, who are arguably (and, in my opinion, rightfully so) two of America’s most likable stars, the fact that their film made less than $9 million on its opening weekend is a disaster.

But alas, even though the cast is as charming as it can get (it also has Todd Louiso in a supporting role, who we should all know and love from High Fidelity and Jerry Maguire) and the premise is actually quite decent, the script is what ends up doing the film in. Seriously, this is just a rom-com cliché festival on full display. Now, I didn’t find The Switch to be nearly as bad as some people say it is, I actually found it to be quite okay, but that’s mostly because I like everything Jason Bateman does and mostly everything Ms. Aniston does herself, the two exceptions in her case being last year’s Love Happens which was pretty bad, and this year’s excruciating The Bounty Hunter, which currently stands as the third worst film I’ve seen all year. However, by that same reasoning, my expectations were a bit high with this one, and it did fail to meet them.

But, put expectations aside and I can see this film for what it is, nowhere near a work of art, but a very light and enjoyable little film that boasts three very charming performances and that, contrary to what one would believe, puts more emphasis on Mr. Bateman’s character and performance than it does on Ms. Aniston’s, something that’s good not only because Mr. Bateman should start getting leading film roles, but also because it’s nice to see a rom-com from the guy’s point of view for a change. And speaking of performances, the performances are actually quite good, the fact that the script has not a single genuine moment in it just doesn’t let them shine as brightly as they potentially could have.

Mr. Bateman is Wally, who’s this sort of neurotic and pessimistic Wall Street guy, but who has a good business and an even better best friend, Kassie, who’s also quite successful and who’s Ms. Aniston’s character. Wally and Kassie are just friends, but when Kassie decides she wants to have a baby by herself and Wally’s name isn’t on the list for potential sperm donors he feels betrayed and they childishly stop being friends for a while. Mr. Bateman plays Wally wonderfully well, really tapping into Wally’s paranoia, playing a guy with a very sharp and dry sense of humor that always looks at the downside and fears romantic commitment.

Suffice it to say that Wally and Kassie don’t go for long separated. They eventually reunite at this little “insemination party” she throws, where he meets the eventual chosen sperm donor, Roland, who’s super handsome and Ivy League-bred. And this is when the film gets tricky to handle, and when we see the director duo handle it nicely, as do the actors, but when we see the screenwriter kind of screw it all up rather nicely. You see, at the insemination party Wally gets a bit tipsy and he drops Roland’s semen cup and replaces it with his own, something that he, in his hungover state, won’t be able to remember after that night.

Which sucks because Kassie leaves town for years and years, until she eventually returns, now with a seven year-old kid. And from then on is when Mr. Bateman turns his performance up a notch and really delivers wonderfully, and his performance isn’t aided so much by Ms. Aniston as it is by Thomas Robinson who plays Sebastian, Kassie’s kid. This is a kid who has the perfect performance to pitch to Jason Bateman, who proceeds to tell a wonderful tale of how many men finally get to really mature in their forties.

And I like that Ms. Aniston, consequentially, isn’t on the foreground. She’s an actress who succeeds when she has an ensemble that can carry some of the weight for her at times, such was the case, obviously, in Friends, and such was the case in the film in which she, to me, gave her best performance to date, The Good Girl, some eight years ago, when she was backed up by Jake Gyllenhaal. And she’s good in this one, too, when she plays back-up to Jason Bateman’s Wally and his existential crisis.

Now, up to this point one might be thinking I kinda loved the flick, but, as I said, the script is pretty crappy, and it keeps the film from actually going places. Particularly Ms. Aniston’s role, which though should have remained as background suppport to Bateman’s, could have had more life to it, and everything would have looked better that way. But nevertheless, stale as the script may be, this one has three performances to love, a subtle but appropriate one from Ms. Aniston, a really solid leading one from Mr. Bateman, and an exceedingly charming one from little Thomas Robinson, who’s bound to steal hearts from audiences worldwide.

Grade: B-

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