Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"The Switch" (2010)

Starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Patrick Wilson
Written by Allan Loeb
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Peck
Rated PG-13 - Language, adult themes
Running Time: 101 Minutes

The Switch [Blu-ray]You might think watching the above trailer for "The Switch" that this might be some kind of light-hearted summer comedy tale.  That was probably an attempt by the studio who found this unassuming, low-key little dramedy difficult to market.  Sure, it's got the very recognizable faces of Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston propping it up, but the actual film itself is a bit harder to peg.

Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) is a woman who is feeling the weight of her biological clock, and decides to find a sperm donor so that she can have a child.  She informs her best friend Wally (Jason Bateman) of her plans, and it immediately begins to cause problems for the two.  She wants a baby more than anything, but he thinks artificial insemination is weird, and he might just feel a bit of jealousy that she didn't pick him to be the donor.  At her insemination party, he proceeds to get exceedingly drunk.  While relieving himself in the bathroom, he ends up accidentally spilling the sperm sample from the donor, Roland (Patrick Wilson), which just happens to be on a shelf over the sink.  What does he do?  Well, being fabulously drunk and kind of upset, he refills the cup with his own semen.

Not long after, Kassie informs Wally that she's moving home with her parents.  Seven years later, she returns to New York and reconnects with Wally.  Soon enough, Wally begins to suspect that something is up with young Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) who seems just as neurotic and strange as Wally himself.  They even end up having similar mannerisms.  But while Wally starts to realize that Sebastian is, in fact, his own son instead of Roland's, Kassie strikes up a relationship with Roland.  Wally struggles to deal with both his feelings for Kassie, the responsibility and the risk of telling her the truth about Sebastian.

"The Switch" isn't much like its trailer.  The tone of the film is completely different from the sort of silly, fluffy preview.  The humor is very low-key, with all of the film's funny lines delivered in a very matter-of-fact way.  The laughs come from the dialogue, which is quite funny, and the cast plays it all very straight.  Also, strangely, the entire film has a very cold color palette, a blue tint over literally everything going on here.

I'm not entirely sure what the directors were thinking here, since it absolutely affects the tone of the entire movie.  Even scenes that are supposed to be warm and cute feel kind of distant.  It's a very strange choice, not one that I would have gone with.  The selection of deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray disc seem to show that this was not how the film was shot, but perhaps added as a post production effect... or perhaps even a fault of a poor transfer for home video.  Who knows.  But the rest of the Blu-Ray is impeccable, with excellent fine detail, so I'm inclined to believe that it's not a fault of the transfer.

But in general, "The Switch" is a pretty funny, entertaining dramedy.  It's well-acted by the cast, which also includes some nice guest turns by Juliette Lewis as Kassie's friend Debbie, and Jeff Goldblum as Wally's friend and coworker Leonard, who gets some of the film's biggest laughs.  It's all well-made, and certainly a slick production.  The focus ends up being on Bateman's Wally far more than Aniston's Kassie.  But Bateman is up for the challenge of carrying this movie, and he shares great chemistry with young Thomas Robinson, playing Sebastian.  There are a lot of things in this movie that could have ruined the entire effort (more on that in the next paragraph) if just one of the had gone wrong, but thankfully none of them do. 

The film does tread some pretty dangerous ground.  In the original script, and in one of the alternate scenes, Wally deliberately swaps the sperm samples.  Frankly, that's just offensive, a violation of Kassie that's pretty damned unforgivable.  This is softened in the actual movie; Wally accidentally spills Roland's sample down the sink and comes up with what he thinks is the only solution at the time.  Years later, Wally doesn't even remember what he'd done until it starts to slowly come back to him.  I'm glad the producers were smart enough to take this route, since going with the previous scene probably would have destroyed the entire film.  As it is in the final film, it's still kind of awful, but it informs the entire plot later on since Wally agonizes over the fact, and Kassie is appropriately pissed off at him when he finally tells her.  Softening up the switch itself allows us to not totally hate Wally for doing it, and it also allows us to give some leeway to Kassie for forgiving him.   Whether or not the film is entirely successful at doing so is up to you.  I still feel a little wary about it, and the ending may be a bit too bright and sunny to be 100% believable, but I'm okay with it, if not fully endorsed.

"The Switch" is a pretty entertaining, low-key romantic dramedy.  It tip-toes around a pretty ugly concept, but has enough warmth and good nature to overcome it.  A couple of smart moves in the editing room saved "The Switch" from being total trash.  But even still, it's probably more of a rental than a purchase, unless you're already a super-fan of the film or just need to own everything Jennifer Aniston.