Kassie sets up a fertility party.

The Switch

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Of course Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) and Wally (Jason Bateman) belong together. It's just a matter of when they wake up to the inevitable. At the outset of The Switch, they are the best of friends. Kassie has decided that at fortyish she must get pregnant now or surrender the possibility. Overlooking her willing best friend Wally, she chooses a sperm donor who looks fine on paper but is a self-absorbed jerk named Roland (Patrick Wilson).

            It's not clear to me exactly when in our new culture sperm donorship became an occasion for public celebration, but clearly it's an idea whose time has come. Kassie sets up a fertility party - a sort of drunken cocktail party to serve as witness to her public impregnation. Donor Roland goes in the bathroom and does his thing, leaving the cup unattended on the shelf. When a thoroughly soused and discouraged Wally comes in to throw up, he knocks the cup over and replaces it with his own donation. Premise established, the rest of the movie follows the relationship between Wally and 6 year old Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), biological father and son.

            Jason Bateman and Thomas Robinson manage to infuse Wally and Sebastian with enough comic similarities to win the audience entirely. The modest charm of this romantic comedy is that the courtship that matters most is the one between these two. They walk and talk and play together in the tones and language of grownups. Little Sebastian is enveloped in a thoroughly irresistible adult seriousness that avoids the trap of cuteness. Unaccustomed to being son to a father, Sebastian treats his dad like a peer. Equally unaccustomed to being father to a son, Wally treats the little guy as if he were a wise old soul. Theirs is a lovely chemistry that generates affectionate laughter in the audience.

            Jennifer Aniston is in a serious pickle here. Given two such accomplished performers to play against, her job is nearly impossible. To her credit, she never tries to upstage her male co-stars, but she just doesn't have the spark necessary to win us over. She can't hold the screen with the guys.

            It may well be that 2010 marks Hollywood's final breakthrough to the Internet age where an infinite amount of unfiltered information makes all subjects common conversational currency. One of the years's best movies, The Kids Are All Right, legitimized gay marriage, lesbian sex, and sperm donors as screen subjects. The Switch has taught us that turkey basters and fertility parties now earn a PG-13 rating. It is both inevitable and OK that in the Internet age the speed of change has shortened to roughly a year from the old measure of a generation; but is it unreasonable to hope that after the dust settles, the communal movie screen might still occasionally surprise us with a small measure of the mystery and magic that has drawn us to movies for so long?



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