Movie Review: The Switch

by Eric Melin on August 20, 2010

in Print Reviews

Watch Eric’s on-camera review of “The Switch” with clips from the movie here.

Narration in movies is a tricky thing. Sometimes it illuminates the thoughts of an anachronistic, layered character. Sometimes it’s used to create a mood or rhythm—it’s another detail of a film’s setting.

Often times, however, narration is there to tie up a sloppy film or impose a faux-clever theme on a movie with absolutely nothing to say, like Jason Bateman’s opening narration in the limp romantic comedy “The Switch.”

THE-SWITCH aniston  bateman 2010“Always rushed, always late; I guess that’s why they call it the human race,” he utters in a voice so apathetic he could be asleep. (Is he plagiarizing a great Nada Surf song?) Bateman’s comatose delivery is a very early sign that something is amiss, and it’s not too long before he and Jennifer Aniston are having one of those painfully forced conversations that people only have in modern romantic comedies.

It is strange how quickly and easily we fall into the flow of the predictable romcom. Even though there is little chemistry between Aniston and Bateman and neither of their characters have hardly any likable traits, we immediately start rooting for their characters to get together.

We know how this works so we just coast along. (Hell, maybe we’ve already seen the trailer, which gives the entire movie away.)

Aniston’s maternal clock is ticking and she’s sick of waiting for the perfect guy. Turns out he’s right in front of her, sending her cell phone pictures of what he thinks are his tumor-ridden genitals. (I’m not making this up.) She decides on artificial insemination but has to meet the donor (malevolently handsome Patrick Wilson) first—otherwise she won’t be able to fall in love with him later in the picture.

THE-SWITCH-2010-bathroomThe switch that gives the movie its title (even though it was based on a decidedly more adventurous short story called “Baster” by Jeffrey Eugenides) comes when a pilled-up and drunk Bateman half-innocently replaces the donor sperm with his own seed and then conveniently forgets about it for seven years. Sound creepy? Well, it probably should have been—but instead directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (“Blades of Glory”) are content to squish the film into a harmless formula.

I suppose this setup is no more ridiculous than any other paint-by-numbers romantic comedy, but it is a little painful to see an inspired dry-comic pairing like Bateman and his boss/buddy Jeff Goldblum wasted. Their brief scenes together and the performance of an impossibly smart and neurotic Thomas Robinson as the couple’s kid are the only things that make “The Switch” watchable.

The-Switch-robinson bateman In fact, Robinson and Bateman even find a way to rise above all the cutesy like-father-like-son traits that the screenplay forces them to share. In the end, they form a fairly believable bond. This only serves to leave Aniston even more out in the cold. Her character becomes pretty insignificant and is reduced to waiting for Bateman to get the courage to express how he feels so she can do the same.

I know that it’s a common theme among romcoms that one character has to “wake up,” but if it’s going to be predestined from the beginning, couldn’t they at least distract us with some interesting characters or detours?

“The Switch” follows this well-tread path through all the beats—including the embarrassing public confession and a series of reflective montages—and eventually arrives right back where it started: with Bateman sleepily delivering another awkward off-camera speech directly to the audience.

A real switch would have been to draw some real characters and let them dictate the story instead of plugging good actors into a tired formula.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Xavier August 20, 2010 at 5:25 am

wasting the talents of Jason Bateman, Jeff Goldblum and a story by Jeffery Eugenides,NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!


2 Michael Bird August 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Will someone please stop giving her films? What on earth did she ever do of quality to deserve so many second chances? The Good Girl was eight years ago and it wasn’t even really her that made that a good film. I honestly do not understand her continued …um, success is wrong… presence?


3 Eric Melin August 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Oh yeah, I forgot about The Good Girl. I did like that film and its lack of success probably scared her away from anything remotely outside of the box for years…


4 sharon August 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I really like jennifer anderson and I liked the switch it was predictably but good


5 Jake August 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm

sharon, you must really like jennifer ANDERSON. what movies has she been in? i’ve never heard of her. i like ANISTON in Friends, but that’s about it. she can’t carry a movie at all. i’m sure i’ll get sucked into seeing this with my wife though. i DO, however love me some Jason Bateman.


6 Vincent Scarpa August 30, 2010 at 11:21 am

Didn’t realize this was based on a Eugenides story. Whoa.


7 Eric Melin August 30, 2010 at 11:31 am

“based” is used very very loosely here…


8 Oliver October 2, 2010 at 2:53 am

I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. The lame rom-com tropes were there and the characters were not well scripted, but the performances really kept me in there. Jeff Goldblum was effortlessly fun and witty, as always. Patrick Wilson, who I’ve rarely liked, really played up the vapid, annoyingly handsome stereotype so well – he knew exactly what was needed of him. Jennifer Aniston – prepare yourself, haters – was also good despite her poorly characterized role. She has lent herself to some thankless roles in the past, but here she was instantly watchable and charming as the smart, but not too smart, funny, but not too funny female lead. Finally, Jason Bateman was fantastic. Despite the laconic opening voiceovers, he really added depth to his character in a very nuanced performance. I can only say I enjoyed this film because I actually, despite the predictability of it all, cared for his character.

Oh, and Thomas Robinson was the definition of cute. And very funny.


9 Eric Melin October 4, 2010 at 8:32 am

That’s a testament to the power of charming actors, because you admit they were ‘poorly characterized’ and ‘not well scripted.’ I’m glad that was enough for you to enjoy the film–I guess I just came down on the other side. Thanks for the comment!


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