"The Switch" tells the familiar story of Wally Mars (Jason Bateman), a man who pines for his best friend, Kassie Larson, but lacks the stones to man up and tell her. Things get interesting when she decides to have a kid via artificial insemination, and Wally seizes the opportunity to replace her donor semen with his own. But he was so drunk at the time, that it's not until years later that he meets the boy, Sebastian, and slowly comes to realize he's the father.
It's an interesting premise, a new take on the turkey-baster genre that has gone into full bloom this summer, with "The Back-Up Plan" and "The Kids Are All Right" leading the charge. "The Switch" lands somewhere between the quality of its predecessors, leaning towards "Kids" in terms of brains and heart.
One of the biggest obstacles standing between "The Switch" and full-blown success is the casting of Jennifer Aniston as Kassie. It's not that she's a bad, it's that she's cast in a supporting role that should've gone to a "smaller" actress with more comedy chops -- someone like a Kristen Wiig or a Jenna Fischer. This is Wally's story, a rom-com flipped upside-down and inside-out, in which the guy makes a desperate play by getting (her) pregnant.
The film is based on the short story "Baster" by Jeffrey Eugenides, the Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist of "Middlesex," (who has clearly been chewing on issues surrounding procreation for a long, long time). It goes without saying that this retelling is decidedly less dark than its source material.
One gets the feeling that when the film was originally called "The Baster," it was a much edgier affair, with a sharper, more insightful brand of humor. You can almost imagine the script finding its way into Aniston's hands, her loving it, the producers plotting when they learn they can get Aniston for below her usual rate and then the story getting tweaked to death to make it a "Jennifer Aniston romcom."
But with Aniston in the role of Kassie, it's hard for the viewer, the camera and script to focus on Bateman, who by all rights should be the star of the show. Add to that the fact that Aniston is probably the most over-scrutinized childless bachelorette in Hollywood. It's all too bad, because Bateman is well cast as Wally, bringing a blend of sincerity and neuroses to the role that makes him totally believable in a story that asks quite a bit of the viewer.
Jeff Goldblum is hilarious as Wally's boss/friend/confessor Leonard, a happily single ladies man with a high tolerance for drunken subordinates stopping by his apartment at all hours. His appearances throughout work as a nice palate cleanser whenever the drama gets too melo- or the treacle to thick.
Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck get lazy at times, leaning heavily narration, time-lapse shots of New York City, or using too many close-ups to show us how serious things are. And there are a couple of glaring continuity issues as an A train somehow morphs into a 2 train and Sebastian appears to get progressively worse off long after a showdown with a bully has ended.
"The Switch" is occasionally very funny and touching, with some rarely considered musings on paternal instincts, but it ultimately falls short realizing its potential.