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An unmarried 40-year-old woman turns to a turkey baster in order to become pregnant. Seven years later, she reunites with her best friend, who has been living with a secret: he replaced her preferred sperm sample with his own.
For more about The Switch and the The Switch Blu-ray release, see the The Switch Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on March 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Thomas Robinson
Directors: Will Speck, Josh Gordon
» See full cast & crew
The Switch Blu-ray Review
How is this Jennifer Aniston rom-com different from all other Jennifer Aniston rom-coms?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, March 8, 2011
As much as he's hogged the limelight lately, maybe Charlie Sheen's meltdown isn't the most chilling cautionary tale in current Hollywood. Take the case of Jennifer Aniston for example. Though "our Jen" would hardly be considered of the same loutish ilk as Sheen fils, her career post-Friends has hardly been, to paraphrase Mr. Former Two and a Half Men, a "win." Aniston seemed poised for big screen megastardom upon the wind down of her long running sitcom, but what really seems to have happened is she traded in the half hour weekly laughathon for roughly a 90 minute episode released every three months or so. Aniston has been in one rom-com after another, each barely distinguishable from the other, and most spiraling down the box office drain slowly but surely, adding an inexorable gravity to the arc of Aniston's film career. When she's gone off the reservation and done dramatic work, she's fairly or unfairly either laughed at (Derailed), or ignored by the public (The Good Girl). "Our Jen", maybe, but one seemingly consigned to the public at large's conception of her as the "perky nice one" in one formulaic semi-comedy after another. The problem with releasing so many films that bear a certain generic resemblance to each other is that any differences get plastered over with a "just another Jennifer Aniston rom-com" rubrick that may not be entirely fair to any given individual film. I don't mind admitting I came to The Switch not expecting very much, so perhaps due at least partially to those low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by a film which is emotionally nuanced beyond its admittedly formulaic precepts. Yes, Aniston does everything you'd expect her to: she's cute, she's adorable, she's angry, she's confounded, she's. . .well, she's damned perky. But with a nice turn by co-star Jason Bateman and an absolutely scene-stealing performance by Thomas Robinson as Aniston and Bateman's son, The Switch isn't exactly a masterpiece, but it's probably better than it has any right to be.
Aniston portrays Kassie, a successful New York broadcast network career woman of some sort (it's never specified, but she is seen making up a guest for a talk show in one brief scene) whose best friend for years has been Wally (Bateman). Wally narrates The Switch, and we learn right off the bat that Wally has long harbored romantic feelings for Kassie but never been able to articulate them. The film begins "seven years ago" and sets up a situation where Kassie hears the rather insistent ticking of her biological clock. With no eligible male in sight (of course she looks right through Wally), she decides to go the artificial insemination route, only since she's a "hands on" person (so to speak), she decides she'll find the donor herself rather than going through a sperm bank. She enlists Wally's aid, despite her friend's neurotic insistence that it's a stupid idea and any number of things could go wrong. Kassie tends to discount Wally's neuroticism as Wally tends to be neurotic about everything.
In fairly short order (again not entirely explained), Kassie has found Roland (Patrick Wilson), a strapping Viking (replete with helmet—you'll just have to see the film to understand) who needs the cash Kassie is offering and is more than willing to make a small "deposit" at a patently strange party Kassie's female best friend Debbie (Juliette Lewis, doing a sort of Jami Gertz impersonation), has put together to "do the deed." Debbie also slips the increasingly neurotic Wally some sort of "herbal" pill which, when combined with the potent potable he's drinking, sends him off into a drunken frenzy where he manages to find Roland's "deposit" and, after spilling it, replaces it with one of his own. Because of the drugs and drink, he has no memory of this event the next day when he's chewed out by his best male friend, Leonard (Jeff Goldblum).
Flash forward seven years to "present time." Kassie, after having moved back to her home state of Minnesota to raise Sebastian, the child she thinks is Roland's, gets a job offer to return to New York City, and once again she (and her son) are in Wally's life. Slowly Wally begins to realize Sebastian is a miniature carbon-copy of himself and with Leonard's help he's able to retrieve the long repressed memory of having made "the switch." Deciding the only decent thing to do is to tell Kassie immediately, he arrives at her apartment to discover she's also rekindled a relationship with Roland, and things may be getting very serious indeed.
There's little point finishing this probably already over long précis, as The Switch is not going to win any awards for being innovatively structured or in any general way very surprising. We know from the first moment of the film that Wally and Kassie are meant for each other, and once they share a child together, however unwittingly for a while, the happy ending of this film is more or less a foregone conclusion. Where The Switch actually manages to make a perhaps unexpected connection with its audience is in the lovely interplay between Wally and Sebastian. In fact (and please pardon the upcoming horrible pun), The Switch engages in a little "Bateman and switch" of its own, as the real focus of the film is the gently growing relationship between a father and his "newfound" son. The relationship between Wally and Kassie is already a done deal, for all intents and purposes and despite the typical rom-com conventions of obstacles and potential other mates in the way. What is really touching here and which plays so beautifully is the blossoming "love affair" between two neurotic souls who just happen to be father and son.
Aniston, despite being saddled with a script that doesn't call on her to do anything much other than be nice, does have some great moments in this film, notably the absolutely marvelous (and wordless) sequence where Wally finally spills the beans and lets her in on his long kept secret about who Sebastian's real father is. Aniston is a marvel of conflicted emotions in this scene, all delivered through her eyes. Bateman is wonderfully understated in this film, evincing the sort of off kilter, Neil Simon-esque neurotic character that everyone other than Bateman was in Arrested Development. Bateman wisely doesn't play Wally to the rafters, and that very quiet approach makes the character more believable and lovable. But it's little doe eyed Thomas Robinson who owns this film lock, stock and barrel. This kid is so wonderfully adorable, even in the dour faced neurotic façade of Sebastian, that I doubt any parent is going to be able to take their eyes and their figurative hugs off of him. Robinson is refreshingly unmannered and that lack of fussiness in the performance brings Sebastian's own neurotic fussy qualities brilliantly to the screen.
As with so many rom-coms, The Switch bogs down in too many silly plot sidebars in the middle third of the film, and some viewers are probably going to be mentally screaming "Get to the happy ending already, would ya?" But watching the relationship between Wally and Sebastian find its footing is a nice counterweight to the film's tendency to wallow in rom-com conventions. The Switch was probably a victim of a sort of generic backlash to the "Aniston rom-com syndrome," a case of too many similarly themed films being released over the course of the past few years. The fact is, The Switch, while gently humorous at times, is hardly ever laugh out loud funny and the real romance here is the one between Wally and Sebastian. In this case, Aniston is the third wheel, and that actually works toward this film's betterment.
The Switch Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Switch is born on Blu-ray with a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. While the film looks excellently sharp and only has a passing minor artifact or two, overall I was a bit underwhelmed with color and saturation here, with fleshtones often on the muddy brown side of things. A lot of the film seems rather oddly filtered, with pale blues, greens and grays populating the screen quite a bit of the time. In fact, when we finally get something that looks naturally lit, at the very end of the film, suddenly fleshtones are reasonably accurate and saturation looks much better. Overall, though, this is a nicely defined Blu-ray, with abundant fine detail, an intact grain structure and very solid contrast and black levels. There are very occasional shimmer issues on some ornate grillwork of lower Manhattan fences, and once or twice on the New York skyline, but otherwise this is an artifact-free presentation.
The Switch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Switch's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 isn't overly showy, but it's quite enjoyable on its own terms. We get abundant immersion in several crowd scenes, including the opening meeting scene in a restaurant between Aniston and Bateman, where ambient noise spills quite effectively into the surrounds. Later, at the "pregnancy party," the atmosphere is suitably raucous and we get the nice bonus of a source cue from one of the few Top 40 bands from my hometown of Portland, Nu Shooz, performing "I Can't Wait". The dialogue sequences are obviously the heart and soul of this movie, and are often handled in very quiet, unassuming one on one scenes, and the 5.1 track, while fairly narrow here, reproduces the dialogue cleanly and crisply. There's nothing here that is going to knock your socks off, but the track is surprisingly nuanced and unusually immersive for a typical rom-com.
The Switch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Switch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Switch is a surprisingly sweet and good-natured look at an accidental bond between a father and a son. Its marketing tried to suggest it was the latest tri-monthly model in the "Aniston rom-com" genre, and that may have deprived the film of the audience it could have clicked with. If you're a parent, your heart is probably going to melt once you set eyes on Thomas Robinson as Sebastian, and Aniston and Bateman do nice, if more expectedly professional, work here. Recommended.
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