Blame the sweeping success of the feminist movement or Jennifer Lopez’s lousy film The Back-up Plan, but when Jennifer Aniston rattled on about becoming a mother without the need of a man, it felt redundant. However, as it turns out, The Switch isn’t so much about a woman’s journey to single motherhood as it is a man’s passage to self-awareness.
Jason Bateman plays Wally, a Wall Street wiz who is a glass-half-empty kind of guy. His best friend Kassie (Aniston) is a television network do-gooder and the light in Wally’s narcissistic existence. However, his repressed personality condemns all possibility of having feelings for her. His business partner and go-to advice guy (an underused Jeff Goldblum) adamantly pokes fun at Wally’s oblivious love for Kassie and is an entertaining voice of reason.
So when Kassie decides to go sperm shopping—Wally’s swimmers aren’t given a thought—he goes berserk, causing a “timeout” in their friendship. But while attending Kassie’s turkey-baster insemination party, Wally gets drunk, finds the winning donor’s goods and secretly makes the switch—a scene that plays out with a hilarious surprise. A blacked-out Wally forgets the switch, and the movie’s second act gradually reveals the father-son resemblance to our neurotic protagonist and his mini-me, Sebastian (played by scene-stealing newcomer Thomas Robinson).
Based off a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides called Baster, screenwriter Allan Loeb takes his sweet time leading up to the real meat of this story. If it weren’t for Aniston’s charm and Bateman’s quick wit, the first half of the movie would be a snoozer. But once the point of this story kicks in, The Switch quickly becomes a funny and endearing tale.
The chemistry between Bateman and Aniston holds up well, mainly because they’re too lovable not to wish them a happily-ever-after. But the best chemistry of this movie lies in the growing relationship of Wally and his son—both conveying comical Woody Allen-esque phobic fixations. They make the same cringe-worthy noises, their hair is similarly unruly and they share the same life-loathing cynicism for each second of the day. It’s a well-cast and well-written journey watching these two relate and attach to each other.
A few constant themes threaded into the story establish a real, emotional connection to these characters and their future, such as Sebastian’s love for picture frames. He insists on keeping the original photo inside them, giving each its own story. This plays well with Wally’s self-destructive behavior toward his own past, which isn’t told until a tender, heartfelt scene between father and son.
Ultimately, Aniston’s Kassie becomes a supporting role, and she does so graciously. While viewers will root for Wally and Kassie to come together, they’ll love that it doesn’t come so easily, with the anticipation building as to how Wally will tell Kassie he’s the daddy.
That moment comes at the climax, made possible by the most important aspect of this movie: Wally’s growth. And in the end, it also gives The Switch a refreshing twist to a rom-com story that’s already been told.
The Switch (PG-13) ★★★☆☆