Due to a conflict with Jennifer Aniston's fertility cycle,
The Switch was not screened for critics by WW press deadlines.
On the list of things I want to do, watching Jennifer Aniston get busy with a turkey baster full of shanghaied sperm ranks low on my agenda. But, lucky for me and for viewers of the genuinely endearing new comedy The Switch
, the stealthy swapper in question is Jason Bateman
, a man whose penchant for playing caustic yet lovable sad sacks, responsibility-dodging husbands
and long-suffering family touchstones
improves most projects he's a part of.
In Josh Gordon and Will Speck's new flick, successful 40-something New Yorker Kassie (Aniston) is sick of waiting for her failed relationships to catch up with her biological clock—she's going to be a single mom on her own terms. But while she powers ahead, charting her fertility cycle and auditioning sperm donors, her best friend Wally (Bateman) tries to get her to put on the brakes. A collection of free-floating neuroses and sarcasm tucked into sweater vest and cargo pants, Wally has desperately been trying to tell Kassie he's been in love with her for years. Instead, he settles for texting her photos of a strange growth on his scrotum and second-guessing her choices for who would provide great baby batter.
Wally's self-loathing and frustration—so palpable that it actually physically repels other human beings at gatherings—crescendos at Kassie's "I'm getting pregnant party." At the party, she'll ceremoniously insert her chosen sperm at the end of the night—collected from Roland, brawny, rubber-faced nice guy Patrick Wilson, playing a more woodsy variation on his Nite Owl character in Watchmen
Meanwhile, Wally gets drunk and a little fumble-fingered with Roland's seminal "offering." One drunken blackout and fast-forward six years later—you've got a romantic comedy and a grade-school kid on your hands.
The flick's got good bones and sharp dialogue. It's based on a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides (Middlesex
), and most of the surprisingly dry humor comes from Wally's slowly thawing but still pessimistic encounters with Kassie's now six-year-old son Sebastian, who seems unsettlingly familiar in his obsessions with Web M.D., gloomy predictions of failure and fastidious habits. (Warning: The movie is bookended by a pair of truly unforgivable bits of voice-over involving grand, weepy pronouncements about the human race. I'd recommend jamming your fingers in your ears and whispering "nah-nah-nah-nah" until it's over.) Kids can be as irritating as CGI creatures in movies, but doe-eyed Thomas Robinson manages to walk a fine line between obsessive and lovable, allowing for a series of charming, antisocial vignettes between possible father and son.
Aniston is a bit lost in the shuffle when the film focuses on the boys, and that's a good thing. She's nice and friendly and utterly forgettable, as usual.
There's charming pop-ins from Jeff Goldblum, as Wally's sounding board, and Juliette Lewis (Kassie's loudmouth best friend). But the real draw of The Switch
is watching Bateman's Wally man up enough to become the kind of guy who'd make a great dad—and maybe even a husband in the process. PG-13.