No, the world is not ending, but you’re forgiven for thinking so after seeing two Jennifer Aniston movie reviews in a row on my page.

Except, The Switch is not really an Aniston movie, and shame on some of the early ads and magazine articles that sold it that way when it originally came out. In reality, the star and main character is Jason Bateman, and thank god for that – the difference between watching a Bateman star vehicle and an Aniston star vehicle is roughly equivalent to the difference between winning the lottery and dying in a horrible automobile accident.

Bateman stars as a neurotic but good-hearted guy who has a hard time admitting to himself that he is secretly in love with his best friend, played by Aniston (and yes, I could sadly relate to a lot of the Bateman character, in particular the idea of always being put into the “friend zone” by the girls you fall for). When Aniston decides to get pregnant with the help of a donor, Bateman attends her insemination party…no, really, there’s an insemination party. If you’re gonna deal with this movie, you have to accept the ridiculousness of that. Anyway, Bateman accidentally gets high at the party, and ends up spilling the sperm sample in the bathroom sink. Thankfully, he’s not too high to…well, you know…and he quickly provides a replacement sample, with no one being any the wiser – including Bateman, who doesn’t even remember his deed (for the record, the whole “getting high and sabotaging a pregnancy” bit is NOT one of the elements I can relate to).

Aniston then moves away, and despite the movie making a pretty big deal about how great of friends these two are, neither one visits the other for the next seven years. I thought that was odd, but the two girls I watched it with didn’t have a problem with it, so what do I know? One day, Aniston moves back to the city with her young son, and once Bateman is introduced to him he starts to notice some strange similarities between the kid and himself. Unfortunately, even as he remembers what happened that night and truly bonds with the boy, his plans to tell Aniston the truth are upended by the fact that she is now dating the man she thinks was the actual donor (played by the awesome Patrick Wilson).

You can probably guess where things go from there…and that is ultimately the biggest fault with this movie. The Switch has a legitimately unique and intriguing premise for a romantic-comedy, but in the end it seems too afraid to really follow through with it, and instead in its last act just reverts to the same old rom-com formulas and cliches that we have seen a million times before. It’s a shame, cause there are moments where I really expected and wanted the movie to go in a slightly darker or at least more realistic direction, but it’s just too afraid to break free of the confines of its genre.

Still, I can’t really say I hated the movie – it’s nowhere near as offensive as Picture Perfect, for instance. And its actually quite a few notches above most other rom-coms, thanks to Bateman’s performance and some decent supporting work from Jeff Goldblum and the little kid who plays the son. Heck, even Aniston isn’t grating in this one. Note to Hollywood: Aniston is clearly best used in small doses – let’s keep it that way.

My biggest complaint about The Switch is just that it is ultimately too safe and forgettable. It has a premise that COULD be the set-up for a great dark comedy, or at least a more daring rom-com, but the entire second half has the same sort of “been there, seen that” feel that always sinks these movies for me. I’d recommend checking it out someday if you’re a fan of Bateman, as it is a very good showcase for him. Just don’t expect it to be anything that will stick with you for any significant amount of time afterwards.

 

 

This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on July 17th, 2011.

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