If you’ve been caught up in Bill O’Reilly spouting off complaints about THE SWITCH and it’s inevitable contribution to the decline of the American family, you may be disinterested with the film and might skip it in fear it’s nothing more than fodder for controversy. Although “no press is bad press” usually rings true for Hollywood, I think anyone skipping this film because of what they’ve read in the headlines is going to be missing out on a quality film that really doesn’t fit any of the genre molds that we’ve grown accustomed to.
The premise that has so many people up in arms revolves around Kassie’s (Jennifer Aniston) decision to conceive a baby through artificial insemination. But this idea alone is addressed several times in the movie, both from a naysayer and a supporter of the idea. The movie doesn’t support the idea of single women purposely having babies alone, but it handles the topic subjectively and provides several different viewpoints. The joke is that the movie really isn’t about her artificial insemination. In fact, the movie isn’t about Jennifer Aniston’s character at all. It’s about Wally Mars, played to utter perfection by Jason Bateman. Much like LOVE HAPPENS was actually Aaron Eckhart’s movie, THE SWITCH belongs to Mr. Bateman.
Aside from some awkward narration that opened and closed the movie, Jason Bateman was nearly flawless in depicting a complex, neurotic character that almost everyone can relate to. While some romance films make you want to scream at the screen as a character bewilderingly doesn’t say something or makes a questionable decision, we never get that in this film. Part of that was Bateman nailing the character and the other part was screenwriter Allan Loeb weaving the story in a way that it never really made sense for Wally to divulge his feelings or come clean on “the switch”. In a movie that was ripe for plot pitfalls and questionable character developments, Loeb managed to make everything believable and create characters we liked and rooted for.
I’m not Aniston’s biggest fan, but she played her supporting role wonderfully here, much like she did in LOVE HAPPENS. The film shined when Wally was teamed up with his son, Sebastian, played by newcomer Thomas Robinson. The little similarities they inserted in the film that showed Wally was his father were both cute and creative, making us fully invested into their relationship. But this wasn’t us watching Wally go head over heels for the kid or for Kassie, the development was slow and it felt natural, which is hard when a film is trying to develop two separate relationships, both of which have to work out in the end. The other supporting characters (Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis) were a little too cliché to be noteworthy, so the best thing about them was that they didn’t distract from the story too much.
I can imagine that people that have become disillusioned with Aniston over the years will avoid this, thinking this is her showcase. On the flipside, her biggest fans might flock to the theater, thinking this is her showcase. Either way, some fans are going to be disappointed. The people that should be seeing this film are anyone that appreciates an original take on the rare romantic dramedy genre and wants more depth to their characters than what most films offer up.