Movie Review: The Switch

“The Switch” on IMDB

Romantic Comedy, 101 Minutes, 2010


This is the same basic, cookie-cutter, rom-com recipe that seems to draw Jennifer Aniston in like a fly to honey.  Jason Bateman’s career hasn’t been doing nearly as well as his talent deserves so he can be forgiven nearly any sin at this point, but Aniston is really driving herself into a nice, comfortable, completely unchallenging rut.

What gets me here is the basic premise: for the plot to work at all the character that you’re supposed to like, the one that you’re rooting for, has to do something terribly, terribly despicable.  Of course the only way for him to even have the opportunity is for his counterpart, the woman that we’re told he simply must end up head-over-heels in love with, must do something ridiculously retarded.

So we have two people who we’re supposed to identify with first setting up an “insemination party” where all their friends get together while she and her selected sperm donor get their respective tasks accomplished.  This was almost ridiculous enough to stop the movie in its tracks for me (although as I was watching with my lovely bride I lacked this option).  Next we have our star-crossed lover getting so completely drunk that he does something truly horrid but, alas, doesn’t remember (at least not until a tortuously contrived scene years later) and so we’re meant to forgive him.

(Although honestly, in how many roles will Jason Bateman get drunk in to advance the plot?  “Arrested Development”, “Hancock”, “Extract”… I’m starting to think he’s filtering scripts on that criteria.)

The movie spends so much significant effort to set-up and explain this twisted plot point that it loses nearly all its charm in the first 30 minutes.  A drunken, forgotten liaison would have taken mere minutes and done just as good a job.  While still distasteful, it would have been completely understandable and infinitely less creepy.  (To be fair apparently the party was in the book on which the movie was based… but damn this seems an odd time for hollywood to get conscious about respecting source material.)

This is a shame because as stereotypical and formulaic as the rest of the movie is it’s really not that bad.  Aniston and Bateman have some obvious, if unbalanced, chemistry and Thomas Robinson is just as engaging and endearing as a child needs to be in a movie like this.  The relationships that arise in the latter half of the movie, while trite and predictable, are enjoyable and sincere enough.

None of that makes this a good movie, but if you can get past the inanity of the first 30 minutes then there might be something to see here.  At its very best it reminded me subtly of “About a Boy” (which is a good thing) but it was only rarely at its best.

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