With Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson. Directed by Josh Gordon, Will Speck. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language. 101 minutes.
It’s tempting to call THE SWITCH the worst movie of the year, but this spring’s “Furry Vengeance” continues to be the benchmark. Instead, call this the biggest waste of talent. An attractive and talented cast is utterly wasted in this insipid alleged comedy.
Wally (Jason Bateman) and Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) are close friends. He clearly wants more but can’t get up the nerve to say it. So he is stunned when she announces she’s going to be a single mom after first tracking down the ideal sperm donor. At a party to celebrate her insemination – yes, the movie really is that contrived and tasteless – Wally gets drunk and accidentally spills out the contribution from Roland (Patrick Wilson). He replaces it with his own.
Seven years later, Kassie, who has moved away, returns to New York with her peculiar son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) in tow. About to turn six, Sebastian is a hypochondriac who is supposed to be a miniature Wally. Instead he is one of those children who spouts adult dialogue written by a screenwriter (Alan Loeb) who apparently knows nothing whatsoever about children. He’s given the eccentric hobby of collecting empty picture frames. That would be absurd enough, but when the boy starts spouting off details of the frames as if he were a connoisseur of rarities you realize it’s not going to be getting any better. Slowly Wally and Sebastian bond and eventually, when he realizes that he’s the father, Wally has to work up the courage to tell Kassie. It’s complicated because sperm donor Roland is now divorced – how convenient – and is courting Kassie. You can see where this is going to end up from a mile off.
The fault with the film lies less with its stars than in a script that never should have been filmed in the first place. It’s hard to believe the film is actually credited with two directors. Were either of them present when the film was shooting? To his credit, Bateman gives it his all, making Wally sympathetic instead of creepy. Aniston remains attractive and talented and locked into forgettable roles where she’s playing variations on her TV character. She needs to get an agent who will find her better parts instead of just doing the same thing over and over.
In supporting roles, Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis pick up paychecks as friends of the leads whose sole purpose to the story is to give Wally and Kassie sounding boards. As for Patrick Wilson, he has what used to be called the “Ralph Bellamy” part since his only function to the plot is to be the guy Kassie doesn’t have a baby with and doesn’t marry. Of course Bellamy never got to play a sperm donor.
The arrival of “The Switch” announces we are in late summer, when the studios start clearing off the shelves to make way for the fall releases. Fortunately, it won’t be around for long.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.