I mentioned in my review of the dismal Catherine Zeta-Jones feature The Rebound that honorable romantic comedies have been few and far between in recent times. With repetitious romance and corny comedy, they desperately need a bit of an, ermm, switch, shall we say? And while rom-com The Switch contains more drama than you’d think (false advertising), it nevertheless has the opportunity to alter this genre’s current predicament. Sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s going to.
Based on the short story “Baster” by Jeffrey Eugenides, it stars Arrested Development‘s Jason Bateman and Friends‘ Jennifer Aniston. One’s a quirky, indie, cult god, while the other is more of a Hollywood tabloid babe. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Bateman is Wally Mars, a character best described as the neurotic type. His BFF (without benefits) is 40-something Kassie Larson, a singleton who wants to have a baby. “I am in the market for some semen,” she tells Wally. “And I need you to help me find some.” In between his legs, missy. She opts for artificial insemination and after some hunting around, she chooses the handsome Roland (Patrick Wilson) to be the donor.
During the “pregnancy party” where Roland does the naughty deed, a heavily intoxicated Wally accidentally spills Roland’s, ahem, load and so decides to sneakily fill the little pot with his own semen, forgetting this event the next morning. He’s essentially a clumsy, drunken genetic rapist of sorts. Inevitably, Kassie soon becomes pregnant, with both her and clueless Wally unaware that he is the biological father.
Cut to seven years later and Kassie returns to NY to reunite with Wally, bringing her six-year old son, brainy but bullied Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), with her, who’s as equally neurotic as his father. Wally begins to remember the events of that fateful night and wants to be with Kassie and Sebastian, but things quickly get complicated as Roland is now involved in their lives.
The thing about The Switch is that although it has been marketed as a romantic comedy, the dramatic elements seem far more present than they should be for this genre. There are many serious scenes, some entirely without any jokes or gags, which may sound like it’s trying to be a tad more adult/respectable, but it still pulled the film down for me.
Personally, I would have preferred the comedy aspect to have been enhanced and polished, as I found myself barely laughing for the whole 96 minute length, which is surprising, what with directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck having helmed the hilarious Blades of Glory in 2007. Aside from a couple of rare amusing gags, The Switch simply is not funny enough to even be classed as a comedy drama, leaving much to be desired.
Our two well-known leads are appealing enough, despite their significant lack of on-screen sexual chemistry. Jennifer Aniston does a terrific job in portraying Jennifer Aniston, as does Jason Bateman in playing Jason Bateman. I really would have loved for Bateman’s performance to have been a robotic one, as I could have written a gut-busting Wall-E pun in reference to his character’s name, but alas, he was pretty darn good.
Aniston has never really escaped the personality of the beloved Rachel from Friends, playing practically the same character in most of her subsequent film roles. Saying that, I bloody love the girl-next-door Miss Green, so I can’t let that discredit Aniston’s likable performance.
Wilson plays the snobby “other guy,” Wally’s recently divorced rival in style, while Robinson gives a remarkable feature film debut as Wally’s hypochondriac son. I see a bright future for the young lad. There’s also the awesomely awesome scene-stealer Jeff Goldblum as Wally’s work colleague, Leonard. He vigorously dominates each brief scene he’s in, even though his character is one big cliché. I adore the guy.
The only genuine character chemistry the film has is between Wally and Sebastian, with the former slowly noticing familiar traits carried on to his son. The two bond over the course of the movie, and it is quite sweet how the stubborn Sebastian soon relates to his oddball father, with their blood relationship unbeknownst to him.
The script, conceived by Allan Loeb, accommodates some inspired dialogue, brimming with satisfactory one-liners throughout. However, towards the end, it subjects itself to silly clichés – such as the use of pathetic fallacy – and predictability, annoyingly dumping itself into a typical, somewhat lazy Hollywood finale.
I didn’t find myself engaged in the story for the first 20 minutes of The Switch, it felt as if I was just watching characters do things I didn’t care about. The film regrettably never achieves a comforting level of captivity, nor does it deliver with the laughs. The performances are near top-notch and the writing is fairly decent, but I still very much wanted more. Then again, there’s a scene where Jeff Goldblum plays the piano and sings Happy Birthday, which in itself almost redeems the film. He’s so awesome.
Five outta ten