Jason Bateman as Wally Mars
Jennifer Aniston as Kassie Larson
Bryce Robinson as Sebastian
Jeff Goldblum as Leonard
Juliette Lewis as Debbie
Patrick Wilson as Roland
Here’s the thing I don’t get about romantic comedies. While they may not necessarily be made just for women, they’ve certainly got women in mind as a target. And yet for some reason their plots often require the female characters to live up to their worst stereotypes, often depicting their heroines as clingy or desperate or something else you’d never actually want to visualize yourself as.
Case in point “The Switch.” Kassie’s (Jennifer Aniston) biological clock is thumping pretty hard and after years of futile dating she’s decided to take matters into her own hands like the modern woman she is and have a baby through artificial insemination. Her best friend Wally (Jason Bateman) isn’t wild about it, but he supports her, so when he gets drunk and accidentally destroys the ‘sample’ what choice does he have but to replace it himself?
You can see the problem here. In order for any of this to work, Kassie has to be the most oblivious person on Earth. Co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (“Blades of Glory”) do their best to make the situation seem plausible, in fact they spend half the film on their set-up, which is far too long for any joke to actually pay off. But then, just to make sure the joke lands, they spend half the film making sure everyone and their dog realizes little Sebastian (Bryce Robinson) is the spitting image of Wally, even mimicking some of the physical mannerisms of a person he’s never seen before in his life.
Kassie is not allowed to notice any of that, or the fact that the man she thinks is Sebastian’s biological father (Patrick Wilson) is about as polar opposite from Sebastian as possible. Or that he’s rebounding pretty hard from his extremely recent divorce and moving in with him might be moving a tad fast.
That’s mainly because Kassie isn’t a character, she’s a foil for Wally, the person the film is really about. A “beady-eyed man-child” who acts as if he’s incapable of taking on adult responsibilities, he is going to have those responsibilities thrust upon him. It’s the kind of thing Bateman is good at, a mixture of sincerity and snark which you never quite find obnoxious. But it’s hard to not to wonder what the point is. His entire reason for being, for what he’s going through is to win Kassie and from what we’re shown of her it’s hard to imagine why. Besides the fact that she looks like Jennifer Aniston.
We are, to some degree, meant to be distracted by Sebastian once he finally makes his appearance, bringing moping cuteness with him wherever he goes. Robinson is pretty good at that sort of thing but you can’t help but feel like you’re having cuteness thrust upon you.
And the rest of it is stunningly unspectacular. It’s probably for the best that so much of the film focuses on Wally because the supporting best friends played by Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis are annoying and clichéd.
It’s not horrible and it has the sense to make the most of Bateman’s talents, but it’s awfully hard to relate to people who can’t figure out Clark Kent is Superman wearing glasses. If there’s something else keeping you from focusing on that, it’s not so bad. There’s nothing going on in “The Switch.”