The Switch review

Tick, tick, tick – what’s that? It’s Jennifer Aniston’s biological clock, which is watched, hawk-like, by many a magazine. Miss Aniston’s womb has proved extremely fruitful for the kind of gossip rags who think a celebrity saying they might want to have a baby at some point, perhaps, in the future, maybe, is cause for a headline saying they’re having one now. Aniston says she’s ready for motherhood? Better stick her on a cover and say she’s pregnant.

We’ll spare you the media ethics debate or the fourth-hand gossip (you can Google it). Suffice to say this latest rom-com role for Jen isn’t a million miles away from real life. She plays Kassie, a middle-aged career woman who’s worried about missing the baby-making boat. With no Mr Right on the scene, she decides to go down the donor route. Indeed the film’s based on a short story with the tantalising title of Baster (written by The Virgin Suicides author Jeffrey Eugenides).

We’re not saying Jen’s going to reach for the turkey baster. But while her ex-spouse Brad Pitt’s playing house with a baby collector, kids have yet to happen for Jen. And if that’s not enough to make you wonder about the awkward conversations that could potentially have arisen while making it, The Switch is being released in the wake of an internet gossip brouhaha in which Jennifer Aniston said she was ready for motherhood and people said “Quick, stick her on a cover and say she’s pregnant!”

So there’s presumably a degree of real-life empathy in Jen’s portrayal of Kassie, although she doesn’t get much of a chance to show it off. Kassie’s plan is to have a baby using donor sperm, which is meant to have come from Roland (Patrick Wilson), a buff, blonde sporty type without too many brain cells to rub together. But old mate Wally (Jason Bateman), who’s besotted with Kassie but was relegated to the friend zone long ago, gets pissed at her insemination party (yes, people have those), knocks over the sperm sample (because you’d leave that knocking around your bathroom rather than putting it away safely) and, well, refills it himself.

Kassie moves away from New York and it’s only on her return, seven years later, that Wally remembers what he did and realises Kassie’s son, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), is his. It’s not really the easiest confession to make: “Hi, sorry, I seem to have accidentally fathered your child,” plus Kassie’s taken up with Roland, the handsome – but vacuous – sperm donor. So, we move to that classic trope where a hapless hero tries to compete with a hunk. Wally is reminiscent of Simon Pegg in Run, Fatboy Run, or any number of Martin Freeman characters.

The Switch is certainly lousy. It’s deeply predictable. And it’s completely irritating to see, yet again, a nice woman dating a man who doesn’t make her happy and refusing to acknowledge this, all because she’s terrified of being alone and being on the shelf. But if you avoid all the stupid adult soap operas, you’ll be left with something very surprising as, hidden inside this so-so rom-com is something else altogether, namely Jason Bateman doing a sterling job of adjusting to fatherhood. Kassie may let the side down by being a wussy doormat who’ll date the first man that looks twice at her, but Bateman’s Wally, however irritating and hapless he may be, is a very rare thing indeed: a non-crap movie father. He doesn’t freak out, or make hilariously awful mistakes, or upset the kid so he runs away. Quickly, quietly, he effortlessly adjusts to being a father long before he plucks up the guts to tell anyone that’s what he is. But however sweet Bateman’s dad scenes are, neither they nor Jeff Goldblum’s hilarious asides as Wally’s boss can stop this film from being decidedly below average.

The Switch at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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