I’m really on the fence about The Switch. I think there are two movies inside this romantic comedy. There’s one plot I dislike for being cliché, boring, ridiculous and helping to spur even more tabloid stories about poor Jennifer Aniston (thank you very much). But there’s also a tender story about a man who loves a woman so much he’ll wait years for her – and, after falling instantly in love with a little boy – will do anything to make the lad’s world complete.
Jason Bateman & Jennifer Aniston
First I’ll tackle the plot I didn’t like. Kassie (Aniston), tired of waiting to meet Mr. Right, goes on the hunt for a sperm donor so she can have a baby. She confides this to her pessimistic friend Wally (Jason Bateman), who when first hearing this announcement is so self-absorbed with his own lackluster life, barely understands what she’s saying. As it slowly sinks in, Wally tries to dissuade Kassie from the ludicrous idea. Spurred on by her empty life and her crazy friend Debbie (Juliette Lewis), Kassie moves on, finding Roland (Patrick Wilson), a charming, suave and good-looking married man as her target.
Juliette Lewis & Jason Bateman
Things get zany when Debbie throws an extravagant party for the actual filling of the cup by Roland. Were they actually going to plop Kassie on the bed and turkey baste her right there? Before that can happen, a drunken Wally – realizing his best friend is slipping away -- switches the sperm to his own.
Patrick Wilson & Juliette Lewis
Seven years later, Kassie, who had moved away from New York City, returns. She not only renews her friendship with Wally, but strikes up one with Roland who is now divorced, lost all his charm and appears plainly idiotic. This story would have been far more interesting if he was a smart, savvy guy and a “real” contender for Kassie.
Thomas Robinson & Jennifer Aniston
What I like about The Switch begins at this point. We know Bateman can be funny and charming as evidenced in Arrested Development and other comedies. And while he again shows his ability to be creatively amusing, there’s a depth to his character here I’ve not seen before. Wally falls for Kassie’s son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) even though he believes Roland is his dad (he didn’t remember the switch-a-roo). And the more he sees Kassie warming up to Roland and Sebastian obviously not wanting anything to do with his soon-to-be father, Wally becomes frozen with regret, fear and longing. Bateman brings out these feelings so effortlessly it definitely raises his game as a performer.
And who wouldn’t fall in love with the smart-beyond-his-years Sebastian? Although Robinson made a TV appearance in Heroes, this is his debut role on the big screen, and he’s set big shoes to fill for himself. He’s adorable in every scene while playing each emotional arc to perfection. His agent’s phone must be ringing nonstop.
Aniston comes across as one-note in this movie. Her character is lamely blind to the “real” Roland in front of her, a guy who doesn’t like her kid. Aniston could have done this role in her sleep. Lewis is her usual zany character but likable. Jeff Goldblum has a small but believable part as Wally’s co-worker and buddy. Wilson unfortunately got stuck with the cliché “wrong guy” part -- not much you can do with that.
While The Switch will probably not please many viewers who enjoy romantic comedies, Bateman’s fans should not miss his performance in this film.
Photo credits: Macall Polay / Baster Productions / Miramax Films