August 27, 2010

Movie Review: The Switch (2010)

theswitch1_largeThe Switch is a movie I really wanted to like. It wasn't so much the story or the plot that drew me in, it was the cast. I like Jason Bateman and when he is used correctly he is a great character actor and Jennifer Aniston may not be a great actress, but she has great screen charisma.  Not to mention a supporting cast that includes the likes of Juliette Lewis, Jeff Goldblum, and Patrick Wilson. So what went wrong here? It is not that it is a complete disaster, but it definitely could have used a little fine tuning. In short, The Switch is just not quite ready for prime time.

The story is a very modern one in the sense you were not likely to see this type of plot crop up in past decades. This year it is the second time we have seen it. Earlier this year there was the Jennifer Lopez comedy The Back Up Plan. That is a film I passed on and I think I made the right decision with regards to that one, but maybe I did. In any case, this is the second film of 2010 to focus on a woman who uses an alternative method to become a mother.

While the film feels stretched out, underwritten, and dare I say dull  for stretches at a time, I think it was still somewhat interesting as an examination of the changing family dynamic. Perhaps not so much as The Kids are All Right, which treats the subject as so much of a non-issue as it treats it as it should be treated. Yes, that film presents a rather different type of family than The Switch does, but it just goes to show that films are reaching the mainstream audience that present non-traditionalism as a new mainstream. Or, I just may have no idea what I am talking about.


Well, back to the movie at hand. The Switch is about more than a different approach to having a family, it is about the reactions, and actions, of the woman's best friend, a neurotic fellow who doesn't admit his true feelings to himself much less to her, not to mention his inability to step up and say much of anything that needs to be said to avoid miscommunication and the comedic consequences. Reading that I am pretty sure you recognize the writing pitfalls that likely cropped up in the writing of the movie. If not, let me just say that if our characters actually new how to talk to their friends the movie would have no reason to exist, instead it gets dragged out so far that the plot is nothing but a gossamer thread upon which long winded conversations are hung. Ugh.

Jennifer Aniston is Kassie, a 40-year-old woman tired of the dating scene and eager to have a child. She decides to go the artificial insemination route. However, she does have the caveat that she has to meet the donor. Enter Roland (Patrick Wilson), the married guy in need of the money. Everything culminates in an insemination party where things go horribly awry.

I guess I should mention that Kassie's best friend Wally (Jason Bateman) is there every step of the way. If you have seen the trailer, you probably have a good idea of what happens. Let's just say that what Roland thinks he does does not actually do. Well, Kassie moves away and returns years later with her little boy, and guess what! Little Sebastian is an awful lot like Wally! This is where the comedy really begins. Wally begins to realize the feelings he has for Kassie, that he wants to be a father, and that he has no idea how to broach the subject. Comedic hi-jinx ensue.


I guess there is not much left to say about the story. I think it had the potential for some interesting and insightful glimpses into the nature of being a parental unit. Unfortunately, it never really digs into the material. It chooses to remain right on the surface with some lighthearted, fish out of water type comedy as Wally tries to find himself and step up. His path means not speaking up when you should and instead having some long meandering conversations that do little more than expand the run time.

I do like Jason Bateman, he has a certain quality that always makes him worth watching. Jennifer Aniston is a star, although she is a little understated here and apparently blind to Wally's obvious infatuations. More interesting work is turned in by the supporting cast, in particular Juliette Lewis and Jeff Goldblum. Lewis is Kassie's faux new-agey friend, she is just a weird flavor in Kassie's somewhat bland world. Now Jeff Goldblum plays Bateman's co-worker and confidant displaying some great comic timing and much like Michael Keaton in The Other Guys makes me wish we saw him more often.

Bottomline. It has its moments and I think I like more than it seems here. It just could have used another pass or two on the script, the ideas and the cast are there. It does have its laughs and underlying concepts that I enjoyed and would not mind revisiting it at some point down the line.

Mildly Recommended.

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