August 26, 2010

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The Switch (PG-13)
Jason Bateman impregnates Jennifer Aniston in the most convoluted way possible in The Switch, a middling romantic comedy that could have ó should have ó been better.

Wally Mars (Bateman) is hopelessly in love with Kassie Larson (Aniston) but canít bring himself to even think about these feelings, much less tell her about them. So he pooh-poohs her relationships and shakes his head with woe when she tells him of her plan to become pregnant, sans man. Or, at least, sans most of the man ó sheís picked a donor to provide the most necessary part. (That that donor is not him clearly devastates him but he shows it by acting pettily annoyed.) At an insemination party, he meets Roland (Patrick Wilson), the Viking-like donor (as the other girls describe him), who has left his baby-assembling-components in a cup in the bathroom. A drunken, bitter Wally accidentally sends Rolandís labor force down the drain so, with the aid of a photo of Diane Sawyer on the cover of a New York magazine, he provides his own backup dancers. And, because he is staggering blind drunk, Wally more or less forgets the events of the evening and sadly waves goodbye when a pregnant Kassie moves away, leaving him and his neuroses with a dog and Wallyís boss Leonard (Jeff Goldblum) to keep them company.

Then, some seven years later, Kassie moves back to New York with young Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) in tow. When Wally meets Sebastian it doesnít take him long to notice that there are some peculiarities about the young boy. He is a hypochondriac and generally rather pessimistic. He, like Wally, makes funny moany noises when he eats. He isnít terribly athletic and quickly becomes an object of bullying. In fact, Sebastian is so un-Viking that Wally starts to wonder, exactly what was it he did the night of the big insemination?

Bateman is funny and charmingly shmoe-ish. Aniston is perfect amounts practical and kinda regular-person goofy. Goldblum is at his Goldblumiest, all weird inflections and spacey delivery. The Switch is actually kind of a cute concept ó a fantasy of family life where you get to have a darling, if strange, child with the person you love but donít have to be responsible for them until well after theyíve passed the diaper stage. Good bone structure, this movie has. But it just didnít add up to a winning movie for me. Something about the fakiness required by the story ó that everybody be apart until suddenly they arenít, that they completely misunderstand each other until suddenly they understand each other perfectly. Perhaps also the not-workingness comes from the fact that the cutesy concept, if viewed not through the lens of a romantic comedy, is deeply creepy. Whatever design flaw it is that makes this table a bit wobbly, The Switch sort of works until it doesnít and is fun until itís tiring, which it eventually becomes. C+

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language. Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck and written by Allan Loeb (from a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides), The Switch is an hour and 40 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Miramax Films.