2.5 out of 5 Stars
I have to admit when I first read the title for the movie I immediately thought that this was going to be a action/thriller full of gun fights, bank robbers and briefcases full of money. Yet to my surprise this was not the case. I remember seeing the preview way back when and just forgot about it as most of us probably did.
“The Switch”, directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, is a dramatic-comedy. I will use this term loosely since the laughs in this movie are as common as any run of the mill drama. The story deals with the classic friend-zone dilemma where Wally (Jason Bateman) is a neurotic, overtly blunt stock broker who is madly in love with his ex girlfriend and best friend forever Kassie (Jennifer Aniston). She is tired of being single and due to her ticking biological clock has decided that she is going to have a baby via artificial insemination. Although Wally offers to be her sperm donor, she explains she could never let him for fear of ruining their friendship. At Kassie’s artificial insemination party, Wally meets Roland (Patrick Wilson) the seemingly perfect specimen she has chosen. Stoned out of his gourd Wally accidentally spills Roland’s sperm donation down the drain and in a panic replaces the sample with his own. We cut to seven years later, Kassie who had left New York to raise her child, now moves back to the Big Apple and introduces Wally to her son Sebastian(Thomas Robinson). What follows is a drawn out story while we wait for Wally to nut up and tell Kassie that he is the father.
I know that going into any dramatic-comedy you can tell how the story will end from the get go. Yet the potential for an original twist to the friend-zone story falls flat due to the horribly written dialogue in the script. I would have never guessed that Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston would have had chemistry yet together they actually deliver a solid performance. The topics of nature vs. nurture, growing up with a absent parent, and that being different is a good thing are actually very heartwarming, largely due to Thomas Robinson. It goes to show that if you drop a six year old who is cute, nerdy, and neurotic that you can tug on anyone’s heart strings. Nature vs. nurture is portrayed well by Bateman and Robinson as we see similar traits and habits between their two characters. Yet the examples become so dead on that you wonder how dense Aniston’s character is for never seeing the similarities. Despite the shortcomings in dialogue, the three manage to stir up some emotions which make the more serious scenes work.
The biggest waste was how they wrote Wally’s boss and confidant Leonard (Jeff Goldblum) who’s seemingly only purpose is to get a couple of laughs. The character could have easily been left out due to the lack luster advice he offers and his own virtual narration to what Wally did and should obviously be doing. But the movie already has a narrator… Wally. So in that Leonard’s character actually became a hindrance to the dramatic progression of the story by offering cheap solutions for Wally’s character.
In the end the movie’s dramatic elements out shine the failure to deliver the comedic value needed to claim this as a dramatic comedy. If the movie had relied less on snarky comments and slapstick comedic tools and focused more on the coming together of a unlikely family – which I believe the message the movie was trying to convey – it would have hit home a lot stronger. Yet what the movie does give us is what we all want at the end of any dramatic-comedy… a happy ending.