The Switch, originally titled The Baster (how’s that for a mental image?), is a surprisingly effective and genuine romantic comedy. You’d never guess it from the premise, which with just a few rewrites could have been turned into one of the raunchiest comedies ever made. A shaky first act settles down into an involving latter two-thirds, mostly due to the subtle comedy of Jason Bateman and a fantastic performance from newcomer Thomas Henderson.
Kassie (Aniston) is forty and unmarried. Fed up with the dating game and yearning for a child, she turns to in-vitro to get pregnant. This comes as a surprise to her best friend, Wally (Bateman), who’s always found her attractive but has never taken the next step. To celebrate the pregnancy, Kassie’s friend, Debbie (Lewis), throws a party where the “donor,” Roland (Wilson) makes his deposit. Drunk and depressed, Wally replaces Roland’s sperm sample with his own. Fast forward seven years. Kassie had moved away but is now returning to New York with Sebastian (Henderson). How long will it take for Kassie to find out the truth?
This is one of those movies where the entire story could be wrapped up in a matter of minutes if someone, anyone, would open their mouth and explain what happened. It takes about an hour and a half to get there, but screenwriter Allan Loeb, working from the short story by Jeffrey Eugenides, turns a flimsy, far-fetched first half into an engaging second half that really clicks. The takeoff point is when Sebastian enters the picture. The interplay between him and Wally is often hilarious and genuine, and the relationship becomes the focal point of the film.
It’s been a rough go of it lately for Jennifer Aniston. Her film choices have been suspect at best, with the disastrous The Bounty Hunter just about writing her off for me. She’s fine in this film, even though her character isn’t overly likeable. She works much better as a supporting player. Jason Bateman, a longtime supporting player himself, really carries the film with his trademark dry humor. He shows as much range as we’ve seen from him here. Young Thomas Robinson is the true revelation, delivering one of the best child performances of recent memory. Fine supporting work is turned in by Jeff Goldblum, who gets some big laughs, and Juliette Lewis.
In a genre as beat down as the romantic comedy, The Switch probably feels better than it actually is. The setup is “only in Hollywood” kind of material but it’s really reigned in as a solid entry into the genre by focusing on the characters instead of the central gimmick. Suspension of disbelief is required, just like with any romantic comedy,but compared to recent junk like When in Rome, there is a welcome freshness among these characters that is truly engaging.
Studio: Miramax Films
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language.
Theatrical Release: August 20, 2010
Directed by: Josh Gordon & Will Speck.
Written by: Allan Loeb. Based upon the short story by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis