sat 24/03/2018

The Switch | reviews, news & interviews

The Switch

The Switch

A flaccid excuse for a movie even by Jennifer Aniston's questionable standards

Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman fail to charm in this flaccid misfire of a film

Step aside Prince Charming – there’s a new fairy tale in town, and your only substantive contribution fits into a small plastic sample pot. At some point in the last few years the Shangri-La, the unattainable dream of romantic comedies, shifted from man to baby. Hollywood started asking itself what happened after Happily Ever After, and the answer – they started trying for a baby, went through several painful, unsuccessful courses of IVF before he cheated with a work colleague – wasn’t pretty. With Jennifer Lopez’s The Back-up Plan and lesbian artificial insemination drama The Kids are all Right a cinema trend was begun; with this month’s The Switch the babycom has well and truly arrived.

Fortysomething Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) is desperate to have a baby. Sick of waiting for the right guy she tasks best friend Wally (Jason Bateman) with helping her find the perfect sperm donor. On the fateful night of her insemination party (go with it), a drunken Wally accidentally destroys the donor sample and replaces it with his own – a sequence of events he has conveniently forgotten by morning. Fast-forward several years and Kassie returns to Wally’s life complete with her intense, hypochondriac son, Sebastian, all pudding-bowl hair and spurious resemblances to neurotic Wally. Now, battling Kassie’s unlikely love affair with sperm donor Roland (Patrick Wilson), Wally must declare his own love for her and claim Sebastian as his own.

This is the kind of flaccid dramedy (the hybrid genre that Aniston’s previous tear-wringing Marley & Me introduced to the world) that would normally star limp-locked Brendan Fraser; one of its few redeeming features is that it does not. Bateman does adequately as “beady-eyed man-child” Wally, the slightly less charming American cousin of Hugh Grant’s About a Boy character, bringing the requisite awkward mumblings and preppy angst to a man whose sole purpose seems to be to provide the straight guy to Jeff Goldblum’s demented boss Leonard.

Together with Juliette Lewis as the kooky, not-beautiful-enough-to-be-the-leading-lady best friend, Goldblum has a blast, and sports a fetching array of knitwear while doing so. Lewis’s dry wit (or the pasteurised version that passes as such for the American market) is a welcome break from Aniston’s casual sincerity, but at no point deviates from the traditions of the supporting female role as set out by Hollywood Screenwriting 101. Thomas Robinson’s Sebastian is precocious to a fault, the single and only attraction of this embarrassment of a film, with a gift for comic expression Aniston could do well to study.

If The Switch is a comedy it is too polite to let it show, let alone allow actual humour to intrude on the important business at hand: pitching to the demographic middle ground between gross-out fest (terms like “cervical mucus” and phrases like “she wouldn’t know good sperm if it slapped her in the face”, are bandied freely around) and meaningful woman-of-a-certain-age drama. The film’s working title was apparently The Baster, some clue as to the level at which we’re operating.

Moving beyond comedy, the real problem with The Switch is its central love triangle. Pitching a weedy, introspective guy against an uncomplicated blond “Viking” is predictable enough, but when you give this Viking all the depth of a bidet and christen him Roland (as unconvincing a name in a potential love interest as could surely be imagined) it loads the dice unreasonably. In order for us to care about Kassie and Wally’s implausible predicament there needs to be some jeopardy, some pretence at least of a threat that might prevent them from living out their painfully banal lives with one another.

I’m not sure who the audience for this film is intended to be. The Switch is too dumb for girls, too sappy for guys, and any woman brave enough to have her own artifical insemination story is surely also brave enough to walk out of this blunt axe of a homily. A film about life-giving that sucks out your soul. Oh, the cruel irony.

Watch The Switch trailer

If The Switch is a comedy it is too polite to let it show

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