Bateman and boy wonder

When it comes to Bateman/Aniston rom-com The Switch, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Or, to be perhaps more precise: Don’t judge it by its title (-sequence) page. Not that most folk will get into much of a ruffle over this, but here’s a small note of personal preference: If you’re a writer/director/editor, and are aware that the film on which you’re working is (1) likely, like thousands before it, to be classified by the marketplace and public-at-large as a “romantic comedy,” and (2) set in New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco, please consider avoiding beginning said film, like thousands before it, with an opening-credits sequence that consists primarily of second-unit establishing shots of said city. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, and it’s pretty, and it works; it just makes me wait five minutes until I can tell the current film apart from the rest of the Magic Eye morass of general rom-com-dom. (Also: If you’re justifying it by saying that the city is practically a “character” in your film, but it isn’t prominently featured excepting the credits montage, then I submit that the city isn’t a “character” in your film.)

That being said, The Switch is a rather good film, one that shouldn’t necessarily be judged by its first “chapter” either. The concept is reasonably simple: Kassie (Aniston) decides that, partner or no, she’s ready for a baby, and sets up an appointment/“insemination party” with Roland (Wilson), an athletic, good-looking sperm donor. At the event, her neurotic and torch-carrying best friend Wally (Bateman) — who, for various reasons, thinks the entire affair is hasty and poorly thought-out — gets impressively loaded (not entirely on purpose) and, via a sequence of events less complicated than one might assume, swaps Roland’s sample for his own. Years later, Kassie moves back to town, carrying a neurotic, doe-eyed, Batemanesque son (Robinson) into an awkward triangle/square with Wally, who’s never confessed his indiscretion (because he doesn’t remember it himself) or his more-than-a-pal feelings, and Roland, who’s newly divorced and interested in fatherhood.

Throughout the film, Bateman is an eminently warm, compulsively watchable actor, and his scenes with the likewise natural Aniston evince great comic subtlety on both sides. Goldblum and Lewis provide brilliantly eccentric support as friends/confidantes to the pair, pulling off nigh-screwball without hitting a false note. But the film doesn’t really get going in its own direction until the kid shows up. It’s at that point that we shift from sad-sack Wally’s unrequited love to the story’s main conflicts of choice and, perhaps more importantly, to Wally’s relationship with the son he never knew he had. And the diminutive Robinson, aside from being perfectly cast, is terrific: There are moments between him and Bateman that ought to make anyone more than a bit misty. In other words, the heart shows up. •

The Switch

Dir. Josh Gordon, Will Speck; writ. Alan Loeb (screenplay), Jeffrey Eugenides (short story); feat. Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson, Thomas Robinson (PG-13)

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