In reviewing Love & Other Drugs last week, I suggested that it was difficult to make a romantic comedy that really stood out and made you want to watch it because everyone knows what’s going to happen in a romantic comedy from the minute the opening credits role. I noted that Love & Other Drugs succeeds because Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway’s performances are outstanding. The 2010 Jennifer Aniston/Jason Bateman starrer, The Switch, has no such strength on which to recommend it. To be clear, I don’t think that Bateman or Aniston turn in subpar performances in the film, instead, they’re just run of the mill ones in a perfectly run of the mill romantic comedy.
The Switch opens to find two long-term friends, Wally (Bateman) and Kassie (Aniston), going about their typically self-centered lives –Wally is worried about the potential for a disease when Kassie drops the bomb on him that she wants to become pregnant and wants his help finding a sperm donor. Wally isn’t exactly okay with that, particularly as he’s been in love with Kassie for years, not that she knows it.
With or without his help though, Kassie is determined that she wants to have a kid and finds a donor (Patrick Wilson) on her own. A drunken Wally though pulls a “switch” and then the movie fast-forwards seven years, the seven wholly irrelevant years that cover the actual pregnancy Kassie desired, her complete change of heart about living in New York (she moves back home to Minnesota) ,and her next complete change of heart where she moves back to the city with a boy in tow who looks suspiciously like Wally and who has each and every idiosyncrasy with which Bateman imbues his character.
Rather than sticking with a discussion of the plot, a discussion which perhaps need not occur because anyone who has read the above can suss out the rest for themselves, let us move ahead to some of the other problems with the film. First and foremost among the issues is that Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s directing of Allan Loeb’s screenplay (based on a story by Jeffrey Eugenides) fails to really convey the sense that this is a romantic comedy at all. It unquestionably isn’t a drama, but as there really is no humor present in the film one very well may question the category into which the piece falls. While Bateman and Aniston may have the ability to do dramatic work, they both appear to believe that this is a comedy. In a supporting role, Juliette Lewis as Kassie’s friend Debbie is unquestionably hamming it up, and Jeff Goldblum as Wally’s friend/boss Leonard is certainly in full comedic mode as well (and the best part of the picture if only because Goldblum is nearly always great to watch).
There is also a huge question about character motivation and believability. Kassie’s son, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), is so clearly Wally’s child from the moment we meet him that it seems implausible that Wally doesn’t instantly recognize it. Even if we hadn’t seen the switch take place and even if Wally was drunk for it, our knowledge of what occurred would be immediate and Wally’s ought to be as well. As for Kassie, after returning to New York, she starts up a relationship with the donor, Roland, who is so totally and completely unlikable that it is simply impossible to believe that Kassie can find something remotely attractive about him. Wilson’s portrayal of this man causes one to question exactly what he was told about this character in his discussions with those working behind the scenes, and is another of the few clues we are given that this is a comedy – it would have to be a comedy for anyone to think Roland a potential love interest.
There is unquestionably a sort of horrific humor in the idea of someone swapping their sperm for another’s, but that horrific humor is limited to exactly one scene in the film. In a romantic comedy with a runtime of greater than 100 minutes, there has to be more than one funny scene, and in this particular case, the scene’s humor is moderately lessened because the title of the film tells us precisely what is going to take place during it. There isn’t even a good deal of chemistry between Bateman and Aniston to make you really root for them to get together, the whole thing just plods along from opening credits to the closing ones, never really involving or intriguing the audience.
Among the special features included on the new Blu-ray release are a series of alternate and deleted scenes as well as a blooper real which, must like the rest of the movie, isn’t terribly amusing. There is also a standard behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film, but that is all.
Without question, the highlight of the film is its Blu-ray presentation. The transfer looks good, there is a large degree of detail and while the colors are generally muted, there are some, the greens in particular, that really pop. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack won’t wow you in any way (this is a romantic comedy), but is it still well-mixed, crisp, and clear. The surrounds mainly come into play with the musical accompaniment and to provide a better sense of location, as one would expect, and perform well in that regard.
If you are a huge fan of Aniston or Bateman, you will most likely find something in the film of which to approve – neither actor delivers anything markedly different from their usual performance here. If, however, you’re simply looking for an enjoyable romantic comedy with which to spend your evening, you’re going to be greatly disappointed – there is nothing terribly romantic nor comedic about The Switch.