review for The Switch on AllMovie

The Switch (2010)
by Alaina O'Connor review

The Switch is a loose adaptation of a Jeffrey Eugenides story called "Baster," published in The New Yorker in 1996, but where the short story dealt with an unattractive and insecure man completely in love with his beautiful career-oriented BFF, the bulk of the film takes place after the short story ends -- post-insemination -- and that's where the movie goes from interesting premise to confused mess. The story centers on best friends Wally (Jason Bateman), a slightly neurotic man-child, and Kassie (Jennifer Aniston), a smart career-minded woman who decides it's time to have a baby -- even if it means doing it by herself. Kassie's friends throw her a fertility party to celebrate the event, and with a little help from sperm donor Roland "the Viking" (Patrick Wilson), she's ready to get pregnant. However, things get wacky when Wally accidentally spills the sample and does the only thing a drunk and desperate 40-year-old man would do -- replace the sample with his own. The last-minute switch is unbeknownst to her, and isn't discovered until seven years later, when Wally finally gets acquainted with Kassie's quirky son, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson).

The film's premise is reminiscent of the Jennifer Lopez vehicle The Back-up Plan, which came out the same year and also dealt with a desperate woman, doing desperate things, in desperate times -- with a turkey baster. The Switch is in a similar vein and takes the whole concept of artificial insemination and presents it in a way that makes the audience question whether they support Kassie's decision; of course, in true Hollywood fashion, Kassie doesn't end up raising her child on her own, as both Wally and Roland vie for the title of "Dad." Despite lending itself to a strong narrative, this controversial topic ultimately takes a backseat as screenwriter Allan Loeb takes too many different approaches, running the gamut from slapstick comedy to traditional rom-com. Though the film is from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, The Switch lacks that same kind of charm and complexity that made those films so appealing.

The heart and strength of the film lie in the relationship between Wally and Sebastian, with alternating scenes of tender moments and father-son bonding hijinks. Their similarities -- they both moan when they chew, have the same stance, are self-proclaimed hypochondriacs -- make for a funny and touchingly well-matched compulsively nerdy pair. Thomas Robinson is undeniably adorable with his giant eyes and heart-melting pout, and Bateman is convincing as the doting father figure. Aniston is the weak link here, taking her place as the queen of mediocre rom-coms. There's really no chemistry between her and Bateman or Wilson, and it seems like she was miscast. Still, with a strong supporting cast including Jeff Goldblum as Wally's witty friend, who serves as a sounding board and provides advice, and Juliette Lewis as Kassie's best girlfriend, who can always be counted on to hurl insults at Wally, the framework of The Switch shapes up nicely.