2 stars

Thr Switch Movie Review


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Like schlocky horrors, mainstream romantic comedies are a dime-a-dozen. Inexpensive to make, they litter the cinematic landscape like flattened-out road-kill, forcing we moviegoers to pick at the carcasses for any tiny morsels of incidental pleasure we can find. Sometimes it’s a surprise twist that pleasantly catches us off-guard. Other times, the comedy garners more than the few expected laughs. But more often than not, they just lie there, pale and lifeless. Unfortunately, that’s the case with The Switch.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you know everything there is to know about the plot. Everything. Loosely (author’s emphasis) taken from Pulitzer Prize-winning Jeffrey Eugenides short story Baster, Wally (Jason Batement) is a neurotic thirty-something Wall Street trader with but one bright spot in his life: his best friend Kassie (Jennifer Aniston), a make-up artist who’s satisfied with their platonic, “best-friends” relationship. Naturally, Wally wants more, so he’s a bit disappointed to learn he’s not the “chosen one” when Kassie announces she wants to have a baby and is looking for a sperm donor.

While soused at Kassie’s insemination party, Wally substitutes his sperm for the intended donor’s (Patrick Wilson); Kassie then moves back home to Minnesota to rear her child; seven years later she returns to New York, wee Wally in tow. Guess where things are headed next? Yep, you guessed it. No surprise twists, no belly laughs. Roll credits and exit the theater carefully please.

To be fair, the film does have a lone bright spot, but it doesn’t come until well into the middle act, when Wally finally meets his young son, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson).  It’s only the tiniest of tasty morsels, but in a barren desert, a mud puddle looks like an oasis.

It’s enjoyable to watch Bateman take his Wally from a self-centered, career-oriented, materialistic New Yorker with no interest in Sebastian at all, to a loving, caring father who, only through a mutual act of self-discovery, is able to accept the child as his own… even though he doesn’t figure out he’s actually the father until near the film’s end. We learn of the film’s message – that if you open up to people, you have a chance to become a much better person – through Wally’s personal journey of development and discovery. Well, that and a few ill-timed voice-overs that pop up occasionally to tell us what we’re supposed to know.

The scenes between Bateman and newcomer Robinson are some of the film’s best. It’s evident early on that Bateman and Aniston have no chemistry whatsoever, so it’s quite refreshing to see Wally and son hit it off so well. Sebastian is a self-conscious, pessimistic hypochondriac… as is his father, so there’s a natural bridge towards amicability between the two. But watching the actors flesh out the earnestness of their characters is truly enjoyable. As father and son explore New York, we feel them falling in a kind of love together, right before our eyes. The problem though, is that they leave Kassie – and her part of the movie - behind emotionally. It now becomes the Wally and Sebastian show. And as a result, the film slogs to a standstill when the action moves away from their characters. Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory) have found a real gem in the young Robinson.

The Switch is one of those comedies that thinks it’s smarter than it really is. Allan Loeb’s script wants to make us feel intelligent because it takes the characters a while to catch up to what we’re suspecting early on. A character knows something and if he would only say it, the movie could end. But of course he can’t, so we plod through the typical rom-com trappings looking for the next bright spot. But in The Switch, they’re too few and too far between.