Review: The Switch is Not the Relationship Movie You Expect
by Jeremy Kirk
August 20, 2010
We've all been there. A years-long female friend decides one day she wants to have a baby. Unmarried and unattached, she decided to have a donor impregnate her. A party for the insemination occurs. You, having drunk everything you can get your hands on that night, stumble into the bathroom that holds the… stuff. Inadvertently, you lose the stuff down the drain and must replace it with some kind of a substitute. No one else is around. It's time for you to take matters into your own hands. Your friend gets pregnant. She leaves for years to raise her child. She returns with a boy who resembles you much more than the over-achieving father she had chosen for him. Oh, by the way, since you were so drunk that night, you don't remember anything and are just as in the dark as everyone else.
Okay, maybe that doesn't happen to many people. That's probably why it's such a clever idea for a story, a short story, to be precise, which has now been adapted into a feature film starring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston. The Switch is a sweet romantic comedy that puts more of its emphasis on the comedy than the romance. It's the type of film that only works if you are to believe one, key connection, and, surprisingly, it's not between the man and woman. We'll get to that in a moment. It works because of the relationship between the man and the now seven-year-old boy who he doesn't know.
Most of this is thanks to Bateman, who hasn't had much luck playing the lead. It's not his fault. He's perfectly fine. It's the projects he generally chooses. Here, we find a nice marriage between the neuroticism Bateman is so ably projecting, the character he fits into like a glove, and the situation that seems very real. Make no mistake, this isn't something that happens all that often. I would think we'd hear about it more if it had. Episodes of Maury Povitch would be filled with episodes with titles like "I Accidentally Impregnated You. Now I'm In Love With Our Son." However, as infrequently as this occurs, the way it plays out makes it appear all the more genuine.
The relationship between Bateman and the child, played by Thomas Robinson, is honest and endearing. Never mind the fact that screenwriter Allan Loeb and co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory) saddle the child character with the same eccentricities that haunt Bateman's character. That aspect is a little too on the nose for my taste. How no one thought to question Bateman's character in the seven years since the child was born shows the cluelessness level in that family is off the map. However, there are plenty of moments between the two that just feel right, little moments here and there as well as larger scenes that lay out just enough realistic detail to put it all into genuine perspective.
It is also pulled off by how sweet and, shock of all shocks, how well Robinson comes off as an actor. Sure, he falls into the "let out a big sigh before delivering each line of dialogue" technique, but, for the most part, he's solid.
Something not so solid in The Switch, and it's a two-pronged problem with this, is in the Bateman/Aniston relationship. It's being billed as a love story between the two. While that is certainly a plot point that is touched on, it never works. This is mostly due to how bland Aniston is as an actress and how completely useless her character is here. We have to have her in there, right? The basic story doesn't work without her, but you've never seen someone posing more as a wallflower in a film where they get top billing in all your life. A scene near the end where everything comes to a head (as it typically does in a film of this nature), gave her the perfect opportunity to come out as her own character, more than just someone in the middle of the room while all the action is moving around her. She doesn't, though, a moment that is much more of a Loeb/Gordon/Speck issue than an Aniston one.
That issue aside, though, The Switch is an ingratiating story filled with characters that are, for the most part, likable enough. The comedy in the film comes off extremely well, especially the scenes concerning Bateman and his boss/best friend played by the always welcome Jeff Goldblum. It's a disarming love story, but one you might not be expecting. The romance between Bateman and Aniston is what gets you to the story. It's the relationship between unknowing father and son, between Bateman and Robinson, that keeps you engrossed.
Jeremy's Rating: 7 out of 10