Friday, August 20, 2010

Higgens Network: The Switch

The modern romantic comedy is all about the gimmicky plot. Reese Witherspoon is a dumb blonde going to Harvard Law School to win back her old boyfriend. Heath Ledger needs to be paid to date Julia Stiles so Stiles’s sister can date Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Matthew McConaughey is going to date Kate Hudson for only 10 days and then during that time….God that plot is too stupid to type.

With The Switch it’s not as frivolously as those. In a drunken state, Jason Bateman’s Wally accidently replaces Jennifer Aniston’s ideal sperm donor’s ingredients with his own. Seven years later she returns to the city with a child who acts remarkably like him.

There are two movies going on here. There is the grumpier version of Kramer vs. Kramer and then there is a McConaughey Dumb Flick. The first kind is great, the second kind is…disappointing. While the rest of the cast knows this movie isn’t Shakespeare, Bateman is firing on all cylinders. There have been plenty of “cynical” characters in romantic comedies. Those are just mistaken for boringly sarcastic. Bateman’s Wally is someone who does not smile. People are irritating and they are usually stupid.

His performance and his dialog is something that isn’t seen in a typical romantic comedy. (Sans his clichéd blind date gone awry by pessimism.) He handles his neurotic nature not as a punchline but as a sad way of life. So when Sebastian, his child played by Thomas Robinson, shows the same morbid tendencies he feels really sympathetic towards him. He never outright says this, but he knows he can help him get through the hard stuff in a way no one did for him.

The two of them together were just great. There is a long sequence when he has to be like a dad and clean the child of his lice. It was honest and not full of KOOKY gags like Bateman falling into the tub.

When the film doesn’t work is when it’s forced by its gimmick. Actors like Jeff Goldblum and Patrick Wilson bring a lot of fun nuances to their familiar characters. Aniston, on the other hand, just brings it down to utter cliché. There is no reason whatsoever that Wally should keep this a secret. All it does it lead that portion of the plot down the same tired and annoying paths. Despite Bateman’s earnest attempts, his relationship with Aniston is never believable or pressing.

With a script so smart in select characterization, it’s depressing to see it fall upon such an obvious structure. Since this movie is targeted to those who like typical romantic comedies, won’t they be the ones to first recognize the same scenes and speeches repeated with nothing new to add? Instead of listening to Aniston complain about lies and interrupting by saying “I know what you’re going to say” I’m just going to hang with Wally and Sebastian and buy picture frames.


  1. OK, what's up with the marketing slogan: "Brought to you by the people that brought you Juno..."

    It's lame. Does the movie-going public know, or give a crap, who these "people" are?

  2. Hollywood assumes people are under the belief that producers have some sort of creative say in movies. This is nothing like Juno aside from Jason Bateman being in both. Kinda sad really.

    It would be hysterical if they marketed it as "Brought to you by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex." Of course that would imply they were actually faithful to the original short story....