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"THE SWITCH"
(2010) (Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A neurotic man tries to find a way to tell his best friend, a single woman with a six-year-old child, that he's the father of her son and not the sperm donor for whom she's now fallen.
PLOT:
With her biological clock ticking down and no father-figure husband in sight, Kassie (JENNIFER ANISTON) has decided the time is ripe for getting pregnant via artificial insemination, a decision approved by her friend Debbie (JULIETTE LEWIS). Wally (JASON BATEMAN), on the other hand, and Kassie's best friend and neurotic equity analyst, thinks it's an awful idea, although he can't specifically articulate why he has that feeling.

Of course, it could be that he harbors a secret love for her, something he can't even recognize, although it doesn't escape his boss and friend, Leonard (JEFF GOLDBLUM). Even so, Kassie decides to go through with it and chooses married college professor Roland (PATRICK WILSON) -- who needs the money -- as her donor. But at her "I'm Getting Pregnant" insemination party, Wally has too much to drink and accidentally spills the all-important vial of Roland's contribution.

Panicked, and with his judgment clouded by too much booze, Wally replaces that with his own and then unintentionally forgets what he's done. Seven years later, and after having moved to Minnesota to raise her child, Kassie moves back to New York City with 6-year-old Sebastian (THOMAS ROBINSON). He's a bright but neurotic boy, much like his father who slowly begins to see signs of himself in the kid. After piecing together what he did, Wally must then figure out whether to tell Kassie the truth, knowing it might very well end their friendship, especially considering that she's become romantically involved with the now-divorced Roland.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Artificial insemination and such related procedures have been around for quite some time, yet it's never really been a hot bed of subject matter for movies. Perhaps that's due to the controversy that surrounded it a half-century ago when it was considered illegal, immoral and otherwise foreign to couples who had babies the old-fashioned way. Nowadays, reports suggest that single women use such methods as much or even more than married heterosexual couples to start or continue building their families.

Perhaps that explains why 2010 has suddenly become the year of the artificial insemination movie. While other years have occasionally featured such flicks, this year we've had not one and not two but three films focusing on the matter. Following "The Back-Up Plan" (where Jennifer Lopez played a single woman who falls for a guy only to learn her earlier A.I. procedure from a donor took hold) and "The Kids Are All Right" (where a lesbian couple's kids seek out their donor father), we now have "The Switch."

In it, Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who realizes she may never meet Mr. Right in time to have a child the natural way before her fertility rate drops too low to make it happen. Accordingly, she decides to be inseminated by a donor (Patrick Wilson), all while her neurotic best friend (Jason Bateman) objects to her plan.

At her "I'm Getting Pregnant" insemination party, the latter drunkenly spills the donation and, with blurred judgment, decides to replace it with his own, and then forgets about the entire thing. That is, until she moves back to the city and he meets her 6-year-old son (Thomas Robinson) and starts to see the striking similarities. Once he figures out what he did, he must then try to get up the courage to inform her of the truth, but is stymied by his lack of a backbone and her budding romance with her now-divorced donor.

As conceived -- pardon the pun -- by writer Allan Loeb and then helmed by co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the dramedy doesn't really offer anything new to the genre. It also follows a fairly predictable plotline trajectory, and takes its time in letting the story unfold and having the various developments and complications arise and/or fall into place.

In today's usual ADD-fueled world of entertainment, one would expect the donor switch and resultant pregnancy to occur fairly early in the proceedings, thus allowing more time for the various comedy bits and touchy-feeling moments to fill up the majority of the 100-some minute runtime. But the filmmakers are in no hurry, with a fair amount of slow build-up to each pivotal event.

It's certainly not a horrible or distracting flaw or tactic (depending on how one views such things), but there isn't a great deal of depth or even padding to take up the slack in the various in-between moments. All of which results in a feeling that what you're watching is fairly slow and inconsequential, peppered with occasionally decent moments, funny lines of dialogue, and good performances.

Alas, Jennifer Aniston once again doesn't hold up her end in terms of the latter. She's far from awful, mind you, but as a fellow critic stated before the screening, there are actresses and then there are movie stars, and she's clearly of the second camp. Despite her success in the long-running TV sitcom "Friends," she's yet to turn into a brilliant big screen comedian (or dramatic performer for that matter) and ends up playing the same sort of pretty but unhappy and otherwise bland characters time and again. The one here is no exception and since it's a pivotal part, it's a fairly weak link in holding everything together.

Fortunately, she has the terrific Jason Bateman playing opposite her. While there's nothing terribly unique or interesting about his character on the surface, the actor brings enough nuances to the part -- and benefits from some good dialogue -- that he creates a sympathetic character. In turn, he then benefits from his pairing with Thomas Robinson playing something of a Mini-Me version of himself.

That might sound cloying and/or obnoxious, but the young performer hits all of the right notes with his part, and his chemistry with Bateman is spot on. Supporting performances from Wilson and Juliette Lewis are decent, but it's Jeff Goldblum (and his standard halting but fun and funny delivery of dialogue) who steals the show among the second-rung characters.

I'll admit I went into the film with decidedly low expectations considering the plot description, previews and the thought of Aniston once again playing the same sort of character she always does. While she didn't do anything to change my impression about her and her role, the pairing of Bateman and young Robinson makes "The Switch" warm, entertaining and funny enough to warrant a 5 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed August 17, 2010 / Posted August 20, 2010


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