The Switch

By , August 23, 2010 11:30 am

I love movies.   I love to watch:  new movies, classics, kids movies, all kinds of movies.  One of my favorite things, however, is when I have a ho hum attitude about a movie going in and then I really like it.  This is the case with The Switch starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman.  To top it off, critics had said they disliked this movie or it wasn’t worth the money or whatever it is they said.  I hadn’t really read a critical review, but I’d heard snippets on the radio and overheard rumblings from people checking out reviews in magazines and whatnot.  Well, I’ve never really trusted critics and this is one more example why.  Critics can sometimes factor in and can sometimes be right, but for the most part, they suck.  Critics have also put Jennifer Aniston into the Tom Cruise Zone.  Critical acclaim has never come Tom Cruise’s way yet I seem to enjoy a boat load of his films:  Top Gun, Cocktail, Risky Business, A Few Good Men, Collateral, and the list goes on.  I find that Jennifer Aniston is treated in similar regard in the sense that no matter what she does, the critics say it stinks or find some other trivial point to harp on.  On the other hand, for this critic, there are plenty of Jennifer Aniston movies that are worth watching and enjoyable.

My wife and I missed celebrating our anniversary this June because we’re both so busy with the kids and home improvement projects and a million other things.  So when my mother-in-law said she could watch the kids and we could go out, we thought of our standard 4 hour adventure of dinner and a movie.  The question was what movie to see as we felt like there wasn’t anything out there we were dying to see.  I voted for the The Switch and she agreed.  I didn’t know much of anything about it except that it starred Jennifer Aniston, was about artificial insemination, and critics said it wasn’t very good.  When we walked into the atrium and saw the marquee, I was very pleased to see that the movie also starred Jason Bateman because I have been liking him more and more over the past couple of years and he’s been putting out great stuff.

Then I remembered one more thing I’d heard:  Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis had strong supporting roles that made it a lot easier for critics to ‘suffer’ through.  Well, I like Jeff Goldblum in many of his roles and I have always thought Juliette Lewis was a great actress.  So that’s a couple more things that quickly moved me from the ho hum category over to the optimistic category.

The movie’s title implies that the sperm used for the artificial insemination is going to be switched.  I didn’t quite know how they we’re going to pull this off, but based on the trailer, the movie had all the hallmarks of a very formulaic flick.  True to presuppositions, the movie was formulaic to the last detail and very predictable.  Formulaic doesn’t always, however, mean bad.  Some people don’t even know or interest themselves with the formulas.  What matters is how well the writers navigate through all the points that must be hit, the actors perform, the director directs well, the editors edit, and so on and so on.  A good example of this is the Blind Side which I also blogged about and really liked.  It was formulaic to the last detail but brilliant; The Switch was much the same way.  It was predictable in what was going to happen in the end, but it didn’t take anything away from the fact that we both enjoyed this movie.

Jennifer Aniston who plays Kassie was great and looked great.  Her performance is strong throughout and there’s no way for a movie like this to be so enjoyable if it wasn’t.  Just like Tom Cruise, she pulls off a performance that people want to see, hits all her marks, looks great doing it, and then people write that she stinks.  In honor of Dale Carnegie’s saying that “no one kicks a dead dog” she should be flattered with all the negative reviews.  If her performance sucked so bad, it wouldn’t be written about again and again.  If there’s a movie with Jennifer Aniston in it that I didn’t like, it wasn’t necessarily because of Jennifer Aniston which is no different than any other actor.  For example, I didn’t care for Marley & Me, but I don’t think it had anything to do with Jennifer Aniston’s acting in the movie.   Office Space is one of my favorite movies and Jennifer Aniston did was she was supposed to do.  Movies are always a coming together of a great many peoples’ talents.  One person’s actions do not make a movie and generally do not break one either.

SPOILER ALERT: do not read on unless you want to know some of the movie details

Jason Bateman was also good in The Switch.  His character Wally Mars was in his wheelhouse and he nailed it.  He plays a neurotic financial analyst / investor in New York city which is where the film is based.  Wally attends an “i’m getting pregnant” party that Juliette Lewis’ character Debbie is throwing for Kassie.   Wally is pretty high strung and Debbie gives him an au natural anti-anxiety medication at the outset of the party.   That, coupled with some heavy drinking, puts Wally into the black out zone.  As he’s trying to find the bathroom, he gets redirected to an alternate bathroom in the back of Kassie’s apartment.  This is where Roland, the sperm donor, has performed the deed of producing the seed and left the sample sitting on a shelf above the toilet.  Wally sees this and in his drunken state, he accidentally spills the semen in the sink.  He proceeds to replace it himself but has no recollection of this the following morning.  Kassie becomes pregnant and moves out of New York and back to Minnesota.  7 years pass by and she moves back to New York with her six year old Sebastian.  It soon becomes obvious that Sebastian is Wally’s son and not Roland’s and the movie ensues from there.  I’m not going to give it all away, but like I mentioned in the beginning, it is pretty formulaic and predictable.

This movie is not on par with The English Patient in its dramatic gravitas.  It’s not a slapstick comedy that offers crude joke after crude joke only for the sake of laughs like The Hangover.  I did, however, laugh out loud from the very beginning and here and there throughout and thought that the writing was better than average.   The opening scene that made me laugh out loud had a mentally ill man standing on the corner in downtown New York hollering out descriptions of people that were unflattering and crude in a manner consistent with someone who has Tourette syndrome.   That Wally would be subjected to this and that he glides through this deprecatory behavior is disarming, hilarious, and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.  To me that’s brilliant writing and sets the tone perfectly for what I consider an entertaining movie worth watching again when it comes out on video.

I’d give this movie 3 out of 4 stars.

Click any photo below to enlarge.

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