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Movie Review: The Switch

August 20, 2010

Come on, we all know the drill with romantic comedies.  Two star-crossed lovers are completely oblivious to the fact that they are perfect for one another, then one or both has an epiphany in the last 15 minutes of the film, usually resulting in a sprint to an airport/train station/cab or other mode of transport to confess their true feelings.  Cue happy ending.

There’s just not that much to it, and the genre has been done to death.  The only thing separating romantic-comedies from one another is the story that articulates how the couple eventually ends up together. Sometimes that journey is dull and joyless, but The Switch was actually a sweet movie that made me want to share the journey with the characters. It was a notch above most romantic comedies, particularly this year’s offerings.

Jennifer Aniston plays Kassie, a New York professional who has suddenly realized that she has a biological clock that is not so much ticking as it is screaming at her to have a baby, stat. Her best friend Wally (who names their kid Wally, for chrissakes?), played by Jason Bateman, warily listens to Kassie effuse about how wonderful it will be to be a single parent, and tries to snap her back to reality.

God forbid someone tell Kassie something she doesn’t want to hear. Kassie dismisses his concern as lack of support, and promptly tells him that she is putting their friendship in a time out (get it, she is already thinking in Mommy terms!)

Wally wallows (sorry) in his misery and unloads on his friend and colleague Leonard, played by Jeff Goldblum. This is not helpful, as Leonard is that guy who doesn’t think that men and women can just be friends, and is perpetually in a state bewilderment about the platonic friendship.

Some time later, Wally receives an invitation to an insemination party for Kassie, complete with little sperm shaped confetti gently wafting out of the envelope.  Please God, tell me these parties don’t really exist.

Of course he goes to the party, where the sperm donor (Patrick Wilson) is adorned with a Viking cap and fawned over by all the women.  The party has been decorated by Kassie’s zany free-spirited friend Debbie (Juliette Lewis.)  You can tell Debbie is free-spirited because she has placed fertility goddess crap everywhere and she likes dream-catchers.

Wally drinks way too much after Debbie gives him an “herbal” calming agent, and he proceeds to have a black out.  However, we are treated to an uncomfortable moment in the bathroom with Wally, who manages to spill, um, the seed before it can be planted into Kassie.  With the help of Diane Sawyer (don’t ask), Wally makes his own contribution to the fertility process, but he never recalls the dirty deed.

Kassie moves back home to raise her baby near her family, Kassie and Wally lose touch, such is life.  Flash forward seven years, and Wally receives a phone call from Kassie, telling him that she is moving back to New York with her son.  The two rekindle their friendship and Wally begins to develop a relationship with her precocious, neurotic six year old son Sebastian.  I’m sure you can guess the rest.

Despite the flimsy, clichéd premise, I found the movie quite charming.  The cast sold me.

Jason Bateman is long overdue a leading man role, and I found him refreshing and real.  He’s handsome, but not overly so.  He’s convincing in the portrayal of his character, who has some endearing idiosyncrasies.  I liked that his character is not perfect, and not the ideal mate.  He’s not a stud, he’s not athletic, he hates the outdoors, and he cries.   *Swoon*

Aniston is toned and fabulous. I gave her the stink eye for being so MILF-alicious.  Real moms don’t look like that, and real moms don’t spend an hour at their child’s bedside concocting stories about magical pajamas.  We just want our offspring to go to bed so we can get a little peace and quiet.

Also, by my math, by the time Kassie and Wally reunite, she is pushing 47.  Riiiiight.

Jeff Goldblum is a special treat as Leonard.  You should hate the guy, but you end up loving him.  Dear Hollywood, it is time for a Jeff Goldblum comeback. Please.

Patrick Wilson (he of the piercing  blue eyes) has the unenviable task of playing Roland, a not-so-bad guy who is interested in Kassie.   Again, he is the guy you are supposed to hate, but he is so damn likable. He is not your typical knuckle dragging romantic challenger (but he is quite cheesy.)

I’d say the weak link is Juliette Lewis as Debbie.  Her character is annoying, predictable, and unnecessary.  Lewis deserves better.

While the movie isn’t perfect, I did find the dialogue a little snappier than most movies of the genre, and the movie has some genuinely funny moments.  Credit directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck, who were responsible for Blades of Glory, a movie that has found heavy rotation in our household.

Aniston and Bateman are more tepid than torrid together. If you are looking for an epic romance, this is not going to fit the bill, but if you are looking for a sweet diversion for an evening, it’s perfect.

Rating: 3.5/5



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