Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"The Switch" Review

“The Switch” is the kind of film I’ve seen a hundred times, and dread seeing for the hundred-and-first. Admittedly, romantic comedy ain’t my bag, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t sniff out the good, the bad, and the mediocre. “The Switch” has stars Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, and Jeff Goldblum sucking on a script that belongs so completely in the third category that there’s almost nothing else to say.

—Almost. The screenplay by Allan Loeb knocks the three talented performers flat on their asses; watching them chew the lame dialogue to a consistency with which they can expectorate a joke is often more entertaining than the line itself. Goldblum in particular turns up his signature stutter, abstracting sentences to the extent that they often are very funny, no thanks to the words themselves.

Loeb’s script is vanilla, but in the hands of directing duo Josh Gordon and Will Speck (whose previous work includes the Will Ferrell figure skating farce “Blades of Glory” and the short-lived Geico “Cavemen” television series), maybe that’s for the best. The issue is that the pair seem to recede from the picture altogether. Safely lit, with a bland, point-and-shoot aesthetic, Gordon and Speck aren’t minuses in the equation, but because or in spite of them (whichever it is), “The Switch” only ever zeroes out.

Loeb honestly deserves the lion’s share of the blame; when he isn’t crowd surfing on cliché, he takes some ludicrous liberties with reality that do add up—To lazy storytelling. Even the execution of his premise is delivered disingenuously.

Here’s the scenario: Kassie Larson (Aniston), 40 and single, decides to have herself artificially inseminated. Never mind that she chooses to do so amidst some swanky, bizarre fertility party (because I actually kind of like that)—The idea that her donor’s “ingredient” would not be pre-acquired is beyond naive. Logic denotes the party would occur not only after the father-to-be has procured his genetic sample, but also after Kassie has undergone her end of the procedure—“The Switch” presumes neither of these very logical things have happened, and in fact relies upon it.

Instead, it shakes out something like this—After creating what would undoubtedly be a very awkward scenario for Kassie’s donor (sending him into the bathroom while, presumably, the hopeful mommy and her guests literally wait for him to masturbate), Loeb adds insult to injury by expecting us to believe the semen sample would be left unattended on the bathroom shelf. Come on. Enter Jason Bateman as Wally Mars, who, with an utterly prefabricated drunkenness, accidently blows the wad—And whose genius idea for replacing it is to become a sort of secret santa for sperm.

“The Switch” isn’t a terrible film from there on out. It radically changes gears as seven years pass and Wally—Having no memory of the night in question—Reunites with Kassie and his son. Traditional romantic comedy beats ensue. Bateman and Aniston have decent chemistry together, but it’s his relationship with child actor Thomas Robinson that feels most sincere. Pity the kid is written like a precocious android programmed to say the darndest things; Robinson is cute, but he’s reading Loeb’s lines.

If "The Switch" had had an original idea or had taken a single gamble with its storytelling, the cast might really have brought it together—As it stands, they do a good job of not embarrassing themselves. They lend their warmth and expertise to a dead script, but in this case, it's too little too late.

"The Switch" might be a lost cause, but who knows. Maybe the hundred-and-second time’s a charm.


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