Surprise! A special delivery
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, August 20, 2010
The good news about "The Switch" is that it lives up to its title. Baiting customers with an ad campaign that makes it look like yet another piece of pregnancy-themed Hollywood product, this disarmingly winning comedy instead turns into a warm, quirkily observant film, strengthened by some appealing performances and a low-key, easygoing vibe. Less reminiscent of the dreadful comedy "The Back-Up Plan" than 2002's lovely "About a Boy," this adaptation of a Jeffrey Eugenides story takes viewers down a path that, while by no means of least resistance, possesses a gratifying share of surprises.
The biggest among them is focus. "The Switch" stars Jennifer Aniston as 40-year-old Kassie, a single woman who decides to conceive a child by way of a sperm donor. Her best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman) looks on disapprovingly, offering little by way of moral support and much by way of neurotic, self-involved commentary. (It's a measure of how close they are that within the first few minutes of "The Switch" they're talking about his scrotum and her cervical mucus.)
But viewers expecting yet another film about baby-crazed women and their biological clocks will be happy to discover that "The Switch" takes Kassie's choice in stride and instead directs most of its attention to Wally, who, after Kassie has her baby and years pass, spends most of the movie puzzling his way through intimacy, commitment and his nascent rapport with Kassie's son, Sebastian.
That Milk Dud-eyed charmer is played by the young Thomas Robinson, whose scenes with Bateman define the high points of "The Switch." It's difficult to describe how funny it is to see a 6-year-old complain of insomnia or, alternatively, how poignant to watch him construct a mythical extended family from a collection of ersatz picture-frame photos. Suffice it to say that, thanks to Robinson's soulful performance and his obvious chemistry with Bateman, what could have been a maudlin or saccharine enterprise rings eccentrically true. It's a tribute to directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck ("Blades of Glory"), working from a script by Allan Loeb, that an otherwise unsavory delousing scene unfolds with unexpected sweetness and charm.
Aniston, her blue eyes even sharper than usual, gracefully cedes center stage to her male co-stars, and supporting players Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis provide their own doses of idiosyncratic comic relief as Wally's addled partner and Kassie's blowsy best girlfriend. But "The Switch," to its credit, really is about a boy, who with the help of a sensitive, sad-eyed kid, stands a chance of becoming a man.
Contains mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and profanity.