Quantcast
subscriber help

artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Switch (review)

Whoops Dadocalypse!

There are your everyday passive-aggressive Nice Guys, milquetoasty manchildren who always have “good” excuses for being doormats and for not expressing themselves. Real life is rife with them, and the movies are full of them. And then there’s Wally Mars, who deserves some sort of lifetime achievement medal for Most Passive-Aggressive Nice Guy Ever. Wally’s story, The Switch, would also deserve some similar accolade as well, for rewarding the outrageous expression of Wally’s barely repressed hostility toward the woman he supposedly loves with precisely the kind of prize the Nice Guy always thinks he deserves.
The medal would not be for Wally’s belief that six years of not letting his best friend, Kassie Larson, know that he’s in love with her is a “missed opportunity.” Hey, whaddaya gonna do? The moment came and went and now he’s stuck in “the friend box” forever. And telling her he loves her would jeopardize the “friendship,” which is apparently a bad thing, even though it’s more of a “he elevates her to a pedestal upon which she is removed from a genuine participation in the relationship” kind of friendship anyway, and wouldn’t seem to be worth maintaining as it is. But Nice Guys have their own flagellation to answer to.

That kind of crap is run of the mill for the Nice Guy. Suffering silently — or, actually, not so silently, because he complains about his suffering to everyone but Kassie — is his own personal, self-imposed hell, and he’s welcome to it. It is when Kassie informs him of her plan to use a sperm donor to get pregnant that Wally goes ballistic. In a passive-aggressive way, of course. See, Kassie feels that if she’s ever going to have a baby, she can’t wait around for Mr. Right any longer, and you’d think Wally might take that as a hint to finally tell her how he feels about her, even if that means he has to gracefully move on should she turn him down. He doesn’t. Instead, he hijacks her pregnancy. At her impregnation party, he accidentally spills the donated material — he just had to look in the little jar because, I dunno, he’s never seen semen before, perhaps; and also, could this be the most Freudian of Freudian slips ever? — and then he replaces it with his own hastily acquired donated material.

This is all intended to be funny, because Wally is so blindly drunk he cannot remember any of this the next morning. But drunkenness doesn’t make people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, it merely removes inhibitions. This is Wally’s resentment laid bare: if he can’t have her… well, he is gonna have her anyway, even if she never knows it. That’ll teach her.

This is all intended to be cute and charming, because charming Jason Bateman (Couples Retreat, The Invention of Lying) is playing Wally, and because cute Jennifer Aniston (The Bounty Hunter, Love Happens) is playing Kassie, and it’s like an interminable sitcom up on the screen. Truly unpleasant things don’t happen on sitcoms, only momentarily annoying misunderstandings, and then everything is just fine again by the closing credits, and everyone is happy and dandy. Hoorah!

But The Switch is nasty and mean, a disgusting movie made all the more disgusting by how flippant it is. The script, by Allan Loeb (21) — based on a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides) — is hamfisted about tough, complicated things like loneliness and single motherhood. It creates far more compelling characters in the secondary friend roles filled by Juliette Lewis (Whip It, Catch and Release) and Jeff Goldblum (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Igby Goes Down). It turns the kid who results from that drunken sperm donation (played, as a six-year-old, by Thomas Robinson) into a caricature of little-kid-ness who is absurdly precocious… though we can probably blame directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (who as a team gave us Blades of Glory) equally for that.

Perhaps the worst thing of all of how The Switch continually ups the Nice Guy ante for Wally. It’s appalling enough what Wally did seven years back, replacing his semen for that of the man Kassie had chosen to be the father of her child. Now, after Kassie has left New York and moved back with the kid, she’s embarking on a relationship with Roland (Patrick Wilson: The A-Team, Watchmen), the original sperm donor, and not for any reason that has anything to do with the fact that (she believes) Roland is her son’s father: Roland is just a great guy, and she really seems to like him very much indeed. And Wally can’t stand it.

Will Wally intervene in the most obnoxious and unfair way possible? You bet. Will he be rewarded for his awful behavior? Of course. Are we meant to take all of it as romantic and adorable? Naturally.

Roland is the real, genuine, authentic nice guy here, and he gets treated like shit. Kassie is a smart, confident, nice gal here, and she gets treated like shit. Wally is a self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish jerk, and he wins it all. What is romantic or charming about this?


MPAA: rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Kelli

    GREAT REVIEW!!! These type of movies are more of a fantasy than AVATAR when you actually think about them. The movie sounds beyond stupid.

  • doa766

    “But drunkenness doesn’t make people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, it merely removes inhibitions”

    are you saying that Mel Gibson lying with his apology speech? no way, he’s a deeply religious man

  • Knightgee

    The entire premise of this movie has me icked out. “Haha, you think your kids are biologically related to the man you wanted to be their father, but in fact they are secretly my children due to me completely disrespecting your wishes and desires by tricking you into impregnating yourself with *MY* sperm. Isn’t that such a laugh?” How is that humorous to anyone that isn’t maladjusted and resentful of women?

  • Nate

    are you saying that Mel Gibson lying with his apology speech? no way, he’s a deeply religious man

    Not sure if serious…

  • Knightgee

    And I’ve just been informed by a lawyer friend that in some places, the premise on which this movie is predicated can be considered a form of battery and even sexual assault. Lovely.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Knightgee – my first thought on seeing the trailer was “Does this technically qualify as rape?” I’m not a fan of Jennifer Aniston, but I can’t imagine what would make her or any other actress sign up for this movie.

  • Megan

    This pretty much sums up my thoughts based on the trailer/premise. I love Jason Bateman and Jeff Goldblum, but I don’t know if I can get over the idea that the character violated his “friend” in this way. I didn’t even think of it as being the whole annoying Nice Guy thing though…

  • rick

    Jennifer Anniston is the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER!

    And this is the best movie that she could come up with?!?

  • The premise of The Switch really disgusts me. It’s also terrifying to imagine people laughing along with it. Didn’t the filmmakers realize they had the makings of a really icky suspense-thriller? The Bateman character is obviously a rapist who should have been prosecuted before a well-deserved beating by Ms. Aniston and Mr. Wilson.

    Hell, this could have been an evil black comedy-drama by Neil LaBute or Todd Solondz. They’d know who the real villain is here!

  • Alice

    I saw The Switch and I have to say I did not think it was that bad. I think Jennifer Aniston has a nice, natural acting style and I just love Jason Bateman. What he did was despicable, but he did not remember it and when he did he decided to come forward right away. Not an excuse, I know.

    I actually really like the relationship between Bateman and the boy. Thought it was sweet. The ending was pure Hollywood–not realistic at all. In real life Bateman would probably go to jail, but I guess I was in a forgiving mood.

    And I love Jeff Goldblum, but he does appear to be playing the same character over and over again these days.

  • Luke

    I was mostly with you, until you started comparing Roland favorably..

    Sure, Bateman’s a jackass, but he gets the kid in a way Roland doesn’t. Roland has this put-on Women’s Studies (I don’t mean this to be disparaging of women’s studies in general, just his act) facade that makes him seem like a super sensitive guy and a great listener but he’s not. He doesn’t get the kid and doesn’t seem to get Kassie either.

    I look for growth in my characters. Roland is flat. Sure it’s effed that (in movie time) it took Bateman’s character 14 years or something to profess his love, but it only took 100 minutes of my real time, and that wasn’t so bad.

    I also disagreed about Juliette Lewis’ character. In what way is she compelling? Totally stock mean over-protective friend character. Nothing interesting.

    Loved Goldblum though.

  • CB

    Remember the X-Files episode (and other less memorable shows) where a guy swapping their sperm for a chosen donor’s made them the bad guy simply for that act? That’s the kind of thing where if the character is redeemable, it’d be some heavy shit to try to work past and salvage relationships. Like, step 1 would probably be graciously accepting that the woman you did that to would never want to see or hear of you again. To make it the “funny” premise of a rom-com? You gotta be shitting me.

    By the way, I really like this deconstruction of the “Nice Guys Finish Last” BS: The Nice Guy’s Guide To Realizing You’re Not That Nice.

    @Chris Beaubien

    Hell, this could have been an evil black comedy-drama by Neil LaBute or Todd Solondz. They’d know who the real villain is here!

    Yeah, no kidding!

    @Alice

    What he did was despicable, but he did not remember it and when he did he decided to come forward right away. Not an excuse, I know.

    And then what happened? Really, I want to know what happened when he came forward and told the woman that he arranged it so that she was inseminated with his sperm. Because yeah, “I was drunk” is not even close to an excuse. Maybe for “I spilled the sperm” but not for “and then I decided to replace it with mine”, because no matter how drunk you are that’s a fucked up thing to do, and admitting it “once you remember” is not worth any more than admitting to any other crime.

    So, what happened? How did she react to finding out her “friend” was a sicko?

  • Alice

    Spoilers

  • MaryAnn

    Sure, Bateman’s a jackass, but he gets the kid in a way Roland doesn’t. Roland has this put-on Women’s Studies (I don’t mean this to be disparaging of women’s studies in general, just his act)

    What makes you think it’s an act? We barely see enough of him to make much of a decision about him — certainly not enough for character development — but I don’t think he comes across as insincere. He just comes across as not-Wally.

    facade that makes him seem like a super sensitive guy and a great listener but he’s not. He doesn’t get the kid and doesn’t seem to get Kassie either.

    This may be true. But absence any evidence of deceit or dishonesty, I don’t think it’s unfair to give Roland the benefit of the doubt (especially since all the movie cares about doing is showing us that he’s NOT Wally). He’s just met the kid, and he’s just getting to know Kassie. Maybe they wouldn’t work out in the long run, but there’s no real evidence either way. And Kassie isn’t developed enough as a character for us to get any genuine sense of how she might feel about Roland, so it seems reasonable to take her at her word: that she does care very much for him.

    I also disagreed about Juliette Lewis’ character. In what way is she compelling?

    I’m not generally a fan of Lewis’s, but here she’s got way more personality than either of the leads just when walking into a room.

    I hate how Hollywood does this. Why couldn’t someone like that be the female lead here? Not *this* character specifically, but someone with a bit more spark and life than what we got.

    Imagine this movie with the same script, but with Juliette Lewis and Jeff Goldblum in the leads. It might still be a disaster, or it might be the most outrageously funny farce.

    Really, I want to know what happened when he came forward and told the woman that he arranged it so that she was inseminated with his sperm.

    SPOILERS

    She’s angry, of course — and not just because Wally waits until the precise moment when Roland is about to ask Kassie to marry him, in front of his entire family — but she very quickly forgives him, and they end up getting married and living happily ever after. Seriously.

  • Overflight

    Seriously? That’s what they went with? They didn’t even have the balls to acknowledge what a fucked up thing this is? I…uh…urgh.

    This is one of two movies this year that just the mere though of them make me want to scream in utter rage “WHY DOES THIS MOVIE EXIST?” (The other is the upcoming I Spit On Your Grave remake)

  • Knightgee – my first thought on seeing the trailer was “Does this technically qualify as rape?”

    No. Rape is traditionally defined as an act of force or intimidation. The same goes for battery and sexual assault. Given the difficulty real-life rape victims already have in bringing their attackers to justice, I would not be too quick to expand the definition of those terms.

    What we have here is an act of fraud and deceit. I leave it to the legal experts to define the exact charge that can be thrown at the guy but he is hardly the first guy to ever impregnate a woman under false pretenses. He’s just one of the first guys in the movies to be clever enough to accomplish it without even being in the same room.

    Incidentally, I got the impression from a review in my local alternative paper that the original short story that inspired this was never meant to be the source of a romcom–and indeed, the original story ends with the discovery that the male protagonist’s facial features have been passed on to the infant.

    Of course, this doesn’t surprise me. It’s been obvious for some time now that we’re not exactly living in the Golden Age of the Romantic Comedy. Indeed, ever since I saw the made-for-cable-TV movie Mrs. Winterbourne (which adapted Cornell Woolrich’s novel I Married a Dead Man into a light and fluffy romcom despite the fact that the novel in question is one of the most downbeat mystery novels ever written), it has been obvious that people in Hollywood will adapt literally anything into a romcom if they think they can get away with it.

  • Orangutan

    it has been obvious that people in Hollywood will adapt literally anything into a romcom if they think they can get away with it.

    Now this could be an fun idea for a contest! “Create a RomCom from source material that should not be a RomCom”. Include a brief synopsis, and cast your two leads. Of course, I’m sure someone can come up with a better name for it than that. :)

  • CB

    she very quickly forgives him, and they end up getting married and living happily ever after. Seriously.

    BAAAAARF. Seriously? Oh right you said that. BAAAAAARF.

    BTW, I think this is an abuse of Jason Bateman. They’re using his good looks and normally charming personality to make an unsympathetic character sympathetic. It’s the same thing they did with American Gangster, where Denzel Washington’s natural charisma made a character who’s most redeeming features are that the heroin he dealt (smuggled in soldiers’ coffins from Vietnam) was pure and he spent much of his drug money supporting his family, into somebody you could actually think of as the “hero”.

    @Tonio

    No. Rape is traditionally defined as an act of force or intimidation.

    What we have here is an act of fraud and deceit. I leave it to the legal experts to define the exact charge

    Regardless of the legality, it is a violation of the body. If he’d done it with a turkey baster while she was sleeping, that’d be called rape despite the lack of force or intimidation (where I live those are merely qualifiers for higher degrees of sexual assault).

    I have a feeling the law is ill equipped to address this — it’s not quite rape, but it’s beyond any normal fraud.

    That someone could be forgiven and then accepted as a life-partner — without it being a major plot point that the victim is suffering from mental issues herself, but rather as if it is right and dandy — is fucking disgusting.

    I repeat: BAAAAAARF.

  • MaryAnn

    It’s the same thing they did with American Gangster, where Denzel Washington’s natural charisma made a character who’s most redeeming features are that the heroin he dealt (smuggled in soldiers’ coffins from Vietnam) was pure and he spent much of his drug money supporting his family, into somebody you could actually think of as the “hero”.

    To be fair to that other movie, a gangster like the one Washington portrays does require a certain degree of charm and appeal in order to do what he does.

    Jason Bateman’s character, on the other hand, does not.

  • LSK

    “But drunkenness doesn’t make people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, it merely removes inhibitions.”

    I have to disagree with you. Drunk people also do really stupid things that they wouldn’t do if sober. And being drunk limits your ability to think logically and clearly leading to really stupid behavior. I can see a drunk idiot spilling something and thinking absurdly he’d have to replace it instead of simply fessing up to it. Not defending this movie otherwise and might never even watch it. I don’t enjoy watching Jennifer Aniston most of the time anymore with the movies she’s been making.

  • No. Rape is traditionally defined as an act of force or intimidation…What we have here is an act of fraud and deceit.

    According to this video by ProfMTH, several states do define rape to include consenting sexual acts for which consent was obtained by fraud (e.g., Tennessee). The example Prof uses concerns a man who called up various women and, pretending to be their boyfriends/husbands, told them of a fantasy involving him sneaking into their rooms and having sex with all the lights off. At least some women went along with this, and he ended up getting busted.

    So in a state whose laws include fraud alongside force in the definition of rape, I’d say there’s a strong possibility the Bateman character could be prosecuted.

  • Bella14

    I thought the trailer was really funny! It’s supposed to be a comedy, right? Compared to the drivel Jennifer A has done over the last few years, this looked alright! Hmmm…will reread this review after I’ve seen it and decide whether I agree with you :).

Pin It on Pinterest