The Switch

8 May

Director: Will Speck and Josh Gordon (2010)

When a film is based on a short story by one of the foremost indie writers, Jeffrey Eugenides, a short story entitled ‘Baster’ no less, and a baby switching plotline that resides firmly in the chick lit territory of cheap paper backs that lie on our mother’s bedside tables beside a glass of cheap Merlot, it’s hard to image a film adaptation that does not similarly categorise itself in the same chick flick genre. Throw in Jennifer Anniston and we are in business. Or are we? In Will Speck and Josh Gordon’s (two directors, rarely a good thing) The Switch, we are given a curveball in the shape of Jason Bateman, whose deadpan, endearing – and yes, alluring – comedy personas have proved he can do alt-cult-comedy, or whatever pigeon hole we are going to call it, ala Arrested Development but then also rise from relative obscurity into blockbuster indie flicks as in Juno. This talent for spanning the many facets of comedy looks to be propelling Bateman’s career along into the mainstream, particularly now comedy seems to be expressing a desire to grow up…somewhat. That said, the fact that this film was originally penned to be called The Baster reassures the viewer this film isn’t going to be too grown up.

The premise of The Switch is pretty much explained by the title and the poster so wonderfully typical of films of this ilk that you almost don’t need to actually watch the film – two best friends, Kassie Larson (Jennifer Anniston) and Wally Mars (Jason Bateman), Kassie wants a baby, Wally secretly in love with her, Kassie gets a sperm donor, has an insemination party (!!), Wally gets hysterically drunk, accidentally knocks sperm donation in the sink so has to ‘improvise’, completely forgets about this incident until he meets Sebastian, the manifested donation and a startling Wally mini-me. Yes it is trite, but sometimes we all have to forgive ourselves a little light baby comedy relief. And it has Jeff Goldblum as the wise and philandering best friend who reminds poor Wally (clue is in the name) of his indiscretions and drunken confession on the switching night in question. Surely that would be something you’d bring up sooner than 7 years later when the child rocks up again? But dear Jeff, you could do no wrong in my eyes…

The plot is only further complicated when Kassie returns with her son/Wally doppelganger and reveals she has developed a rather convenient relationship with Roland, the handsome, athletic go-getter who won the poll for suitable sperm donor. Alarm bells begin to ring when Sebastian displays more of a penchant for hypochondria, knitwear and photoframe collecting than adventure sports. But how does one go about saying to the potential mother of your child and secret love of your life, “Hey, I think that kid is actually my son…in fact it most definitely is since I poured the donor’s sperm down the sink”? The answer is with great difficulty and so provides the crux of the film’s action. While there are a lot of Anniston haters out there, she does well as Kassie, but the film’s attention really is on Wally and Bateman steps up to the mark as an endearing comedy hero who will appeal to men and women alike. Special mention must be given to Sebastian, played by the adorable Thomas Robinson, in his first feature film, bearing an uncanny likeness to a baby Bateman and capturing his characteristic awkward bumbling nature like an old soul treating the audience to some touching and hilarious father/son moments that make you fall even more in love with Bateman and want him to be the father of your children. Just me?

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