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There's a Switch, but Little Change

Movie Review: The Switch (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Jennifer Aniston plays an unmarried and fearful-of-getting old Kassie in The Switch. After going through with artificial insemination and moving back to New York to take on a new job, she reunites with best friend Wally (Jason Bateman), who has been living with a rather conniving secret: he replaced her chosen sperm sample with his own.

There is an initial inclination to admire well-meaning comedic premises that involve a play off of bodily processes. That initial conviction must be seen for what it is. When thought about, there is nothing more serious than having or dealing with kids. Such does not bode well with a funny movie, nor does it stand to succeed with romance flicks for the simple fact that kids aren't romantic.

Aniston's Kassie and Bateman's slightly worrisome and pessimistic Wally are best friends—so says their behavior on screen if we weren't informed of that fact outright. They know each other too well, down to every annoying nervous tick and peculiar habit. When Wally meets his 7-year-old son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) who is even more behaviorally off-centered then he is, he stops to take another look at his life and realizes he's not satisfied. Now all we have to do is get Kassie and Wally to make the jump from friends to lovers, which shouldn't come off as though it's easy.

It's not that friends never turn into lovers. It's that the idea of becoming “more than friends” is not appealing to everyone. When it is, it's been done before, and done with much more vitality than The Switch puts into it. With a plain-as-day neurotic nuisance of a kid playing a major role in the story (one the youngster almost, but not quite has the charisma for), the story takes off for its 30s-40s-something audience, giving them what they want, while leaving everyone else behind.

There are family dynamics at work, but they don't blend well with the love triangle that is set up between Kassie, Wally, and Roland (Patrick Wilson), the “go get 'em” donor and outdoorsman who supposes the child to be his. Performances do not lag, but they are never the problem in this reaching romantic comedy that never ceases to be more than its garden-variety ingredients allow it to be.

The same clichéd elements are found everywhere, from a man somehow involved in stock or financial work, to the completely honest friend (Jeff Goldblum) who is always there to lend support and bring up past dating flame-outs. The Switch is a piecemeal rehashing of the same bunk we've come to expect...New York, dark skies, subway rides home, ending a conversation while waiting for a taxi, and friends talking at parties on the tops of buildings.

I understand why cheap horror movies exist, but I'm not sure I know why clichéd dating movies exist. The theaters aren't going to be packed, and a nice, warm, romantic night on the couch for the twice-divorced with junior high-aged kids doesn't bring in the money like scared teens who pay in droves for lame thrills. The Switch is a fine, well-directed film for the stay-at-home romance enthusiast, but won't do much to spark passion or laughs in too many others.

As a comedy, The Switch isn't funny often enough. When it is, it is a “real world” humorous that manages to dodge overused antics and be on-the-fly funny. Every character is selectively written-in, effectively winning over or offering support as required—while you the viewer are frustratingly waiting for Wally to come to his senses and to tell Cassie about what happened some 7 years earlier. Watch things escalate to their predictable conclusions. No surprises here, folks.

The Switch does manage to draw some legitimate feelings out of the emotional well, but not a single character reaches their potential. With more spirited and lucid writing, it could have made a far more entertaining and worthy viewing experience than the hopelessly mediocre one that it is.

(JH)

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Grade: C+ (2 ½)
Rated: PG-13 (for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, and drug use)
Directors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Summary: An unmarried 40-year-old woman turns to a turkey baster in order to become pregnant. Seven years later, she reunites with her best friend, who has been living with a secret: he replaced her preferred sperm sample with his own.
Starring: Jason Bateman "Wally Mars," Victor Pagan "Knit Hat Guy," Jennifer Aniston "Kassie Larson," Jeff Goldblum "Leonard," Juliette Lewis "Debbie," Todd Louiso "Artie," Scott Elrod "Declan," Patrick Wilson "Roland," Rebecca Naomi Jones "Party Guest"
Genre: Comedy / Romance
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