I will start off by saying the concept for “The Switch” seemed a bit formulaic at first. With recent romantic comedies failing at the box office and also in the movie-goers’ eyes to impress on any level of originality or authenticity, the directing team of Josh Gordon and Will Speck (directors of “Blades of Glory”) had their work cut out for themselves. With obvious backgrounds in the more slapstick comedy region, could these two manage to pull off a true comedy with heart?
Kassie Larson (Jennifer Aniston) and Wally Mars (Jason Bateman) have been best friends forever. Although they gave dating a shot early on in their relationship, they have been able to sustain closeness by just being friends. Always being there for each other, Wally finds it hard to accept it when Kassie tells him that she is going to get artificially inseminated. Not even trying it the conventional way, Kassie gets thrown a “Getting Pregnant Party” by her new age friend Debbie (Juliette Lewis) where the model/surfer-looking donor Roland (Patrick Wilson) is present and gives a fresh “sample” at the party and then a doctor impregnates her. Wally, feeling completely conflicted by the idea, but not really owning up to his true feelings for Kassie, gets hammered with the help of alcohol and prescription drugs. Then, on a trip to the bathroom, he drops the donor’s “specimen” down the sink. In a fit of panic, he decides to replace it with his own. After leaving the party, Wally goes to his womanizing co-worker Leonard’s (Jeff Goldblum) house and incoherently confesses to the atrocity he just committed.
Not remembering a thing in the morning, Wally goes about his life and is devastated when Kassie tells him that she did get pregnant and has decided to move to Minnesota to live with her parents and raise her child there. Seven years pass and, as you can guess, Wally and Kassie have lost touch. Then Kassie calls to tell him that she is moving back to New York to raise her son there. As soon as Wally meets Kassie’s son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) he instantly see’s startling similarities that nobody else does. Forming an instant bond with the neurotic boy is out of the ordinary when it comes to his guarded persona, and Wally slowly comes to realize that there are way too parallels to ignore and that there might be more than meets the eye when it comes to their connection. Now in contact with newly single Roland, who Kassie thinks is the would-be father, she starts to get feelings for him and thinks this could be fate intervening for Sebastian to finally have a father figure. So will Wally be able to own up to his feelings for Kassie and put together the pieces in time and be able to tell her the truth about Sebastian’s origins?
Although this film looks like a stereotype cookie cut-out of many other romantic comedies, it isn’t the story as much as some of the performances that make this movie work. The romantic triangle plot and the sperm donor mix up are pretty standard issue plotlines, so if you ignore those facts and look at the acting of the main and supporting characters, this movie can be thoroughly enjoyed. Jennifer Aniston is at her most sexy and charming in this role — it’s nice to finally see her taking roles that reflect her age as compared to her 20-something type character she has been playing since she left “Friends.” Although Aniston is charming, it isn’t her that takes center stage, but rather Jason Bateman. Bateman’s take on what could have been a one dimensional joke is fun and refreshing, the quirks and intuitiveness he brings to Wally and the relationship he forms with Sebastian endeavors him successfully into the minds of the audience. A lot like the bond seen by John Cusack and Bobby Coleman in “Martian Child,” the capriciousness that Bateman and Robinson pull off seems to work for the film’s benefit. Another reason why Bateman’s character strikes a chord with us is you get to see the full spectrum of his character’s blossoming from the start of the movie and the culmination of it at the end.
Besides Jason Bateman, the other standout performances are by Thomas Robinson as the young and complicated Sebastian and no surprise here, Juliette Lewis and Jeff Goldblum in the roles as the other friends in Kassie and Wally’s lives. Robinson manages to be the most peculiar little boy one has ever seen, questioning everything and still being heartwarming to watch. The idiosyncrasies he manages to portray that mirror the actions of Bateman are a marvel onscreen. Juliette Lewis is a fun, new age hippie best friend who is more than willing to be blunt and comedic. She is more of a polar opposite of Aniston, which plays very well in their relationship. Jeff Goldblum is also the other side of the coin when it comes to Bateman’s reserved and alternative personality. They complete the eclectic scale of the different friendships quite well.
All in all, this movie is funny, endearing and an in-depth look at the portrayal of how an unconventional choice to make your own family is complicated, messy at times, and shouldn’t be taken lightly — but the benefits of creating life can far outweigh the sacrifices one might have to make. This film is touching and pulls at the heart when it comes to the innocence of a child and the importance of family and one’s self of identity. So if any of these attributes sound appealing to you, then head out to the cinema and see “The Switch.”
“The Switch” opens nationwide Aug. 20 and is rated PG-13 for mature content, language, some sexual dialogue and brief nudity.
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