From What Happens in Vegas to The Ugly Truth, the romantic comedy genre is suffering one of the greatest depressions in cinematic history. The Switch is no less predictable than other recent romantic comedies. But you know what? I don't care. This film completely won me over with its charm and warmth. There's bond to be those who label the movie as overly sentimental. Nevertheless, I found The Switch to be an authentic pleasure from the protagonists opening monologue to the final shot.
The understated Jason Bateman is perfectly tailored to play Wally, a sweater vest-wearing, paranoid hypochondriac. His best friend is a woman named Kassie, played by Jennifer Aniston. The two dated for a brief period, but eventually settled into the friend zone. The unmarried Kassie feels she is missing something in her life and decides to have a baby, much to Wally's disapproval. At her insemination party, Wally gets drunk and accidentally tampers with the donor's essence. Inspired by a magazine with Diane Sawyer on the cover, Wally replaces the donor's essence with his own. Wally is so wasted that he forgets all about the incident the next morning.
After Kassie becomes impregnated she moves out of the city to raise her child. Seven years go by as Kassie and Wally drift apart. Then, one day out of the blue, Kassie calls her old friend to inform him she's moving back. Wally finally meets her son, Sebastian, played by newcomer Thomas Robinson. In addition to having a resemblance to Wally, Sebastian also shares many of his obsessive knacks. Although Kassie doesn't see it, Wally begins to realize that he may be her baby daddy.
In television and movies wacky characters often surround Bateman while he is left playing the straight man. For that purpose I sometimes think people underestimate what a great comedic actor he is. Few comedians could do what Bateman accomplishes with each of his performances. Where some actors plead for the audience to laugh at their antics, Bateman never calls attention to himself or recognizes how funny he is. In The Switch he creates a real and sincere individual in a great comedic performance.
I like Aniston a lot, having never missed an episode of Friends. However, I've felt that she could do a lot better when it comes to selecting movie scripts. Earlier this year in The Bounty Hunter she was given little to do except flaunt how good her hair and figure looks. In The Switch she shines as a performer and reveals her full potential as a screen actress. She has a winning chemistry with Bateman in a romance that at times reminded me of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. But the movie's best relationship is between Bateman and young Robinson, who also delivers a strong performance. The father-son bond they develop is surprising and, at times, even moving without becoming manipulative.
What prevents The Switch from being a perfect movie is a subplot involving Patrick Wilson as Kassie's intended donor and a relationship that sparks between the two. Wilson's character is likeable enough as opposed to some exaggeratedly jerky antagonists in romantic comedies. I felt his character was just an unnecessary obstacle to prevent Wally and Kassie's romance and didn't belong in the movie. This one misgiving is easy to overlook though given the films redeeming qualities.
The Switch might not be as wise or clever as some of the best recent romantic comedies like 500 Days of Summer. Yet, it's still a highly enjoyable movie about relationships and parenthood. At times it strikes resemblance to the delightful Indie comedy The Kids Are All Right. Bateman, Aniston and young Robinson are all at the top of their game as is Jeff Goldblum in a fun, supporting performance as Bateman's best friend. Even though the critic in me would love to find fault in its contrived plot, I can't refute that The Switch is a real charmer.