d. Josh Gordon & Will Speck / 2010 / USA / 101 mins
Cinema 1 @ Empire Leicester Square (London, UK)
Okay, so it’s no secret that The Switch is far from a masterpiece, but honestly people, what did you expect?
As a slight variation on a tired old formula, it is still a mildly passable, slightly amusing mix of standard girly Rom-Com cliche and manly gross-out laffs. Jennifer Aniston wants a baby, now! Jason Bateman is her best friend who secretly harbours hopes of something more. She finds a sperm donor. He unknowingly (aka drunkenly) ‘substitutes’ it for his own at the insemination party. Cue a child that is uncannily similar to him and literally minute upon minute of hilarity.
Okay, so I should probably admit that I’ve taken to measuring films like this by counting the number of eye-rolls involuntarily induced by blunt attempts at emotional manipulation, but hey, I’m no workaday cynic. After all, it did make me laugh a few times.
It’s no surprise that there’s nothing particularly new here, of course. The central characters are placed, as they habitually are, in ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’ situations, with the balance only restored when they have forsaken those paths for a life that is more acceptably ‘normal’. And whilst both of the central characters in The Switch begin as unrealistically selfish (in one way or another), it’s not exactly a stretch to assume that the world of the film will – over the course of a hundred-odd minutes – right itself, bringing respite to all anxieties as they succumb to a ‘normalised’ existence.
At one point, Jason Bateman’s character ruins a perfectly good date by extrapolating maniacally on their prospective future until he predicts a move to the bleak suburban wastelands of New Jersey. He is horrified, his date is horrified. And yet, lo and behold, the film ends with him in precisely this position. Far from verifying the concerns of Bateman’s character, this outcome merely paints those of his ilk as weak, anxiety-ridden individuals who wont achieve anything of value until they submit themselves to the convenient comforts of suburban family life. In other words, people, you don’t gain anything from being ‘different’, just tow the line, raise your kids, pay your taxes, collect your watch and kick your bucket.
Insidious ‘family values’ subtext aside, The Switch isn’t all bad. Bateman’s performance is reasonably proficient and Aniston manages to avoid being too irritating, so it’s left to the supporting cast to elevate the film ever so slightly above its destiny as another bland, unfunny Rom-Com. Jeff Goldblum, as Bateman’s colleague and confidante, steals the show to an extent that I’ve not witnessed since Philip Seymour Hoffman trampled all over the multi-Oscared Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), and even Juliette Lewis’ special blend of crazy is almost perfectly placed. But it is Thomas Robinson who absolutely owns the film with an astoundingly understated performance as Aniston’s socially awkward sprog, a pint-sized pessimist, Woody Allen in miniature.
And in the end, The Switch is a romantic comedy. There was indeed some romance, and sometimes it even made me laugh. Job done, I guess.
Incidentally, if you’re still wondering, The Switch scored a monumental four on my Eye-Rollometer™.