The older I get, the more tolerant I find myself on the big issues and the greater my intolerance and impatience with small annoyances. (You there, blabbing away loudly on your cell on a crowded public bus, just shut up already!)
You’re gay and you want to marry your partner? Fine by me. You’re a Nazi and you want to stage a protest rally next door to a synagogue? Hey, it’s a free country. You’re a single woman and you want to have and raise a baby without a father present? Okey-doke, just promise to love the kid and bring it up right.
That last is the basic plotline of “The Switch,” a comedy starring Jennifer Aniston as a would-be single mother and Jason Bateman as her best friend. The switch? Unbeknownst to her, he provides the sperm deposit for her eventual bundle of joy rather than the guy (Patrick Wilson) she thought was, ahem, manning the turkey baster.
Bill O’Reilly, the grand poobah at Fox News, has a problem with this. He denounced Aniston on his show for remarks she had made, while publicizing the film, endorsing women having kids on their own. “That’s destructive to our society,” O’Reilly said.
I have no problem with Aniston’s remarks or stance supporting single motherhood. I do — remember how I said it’s the little things that bug me now — have a problem with her movie. It’s silly and she gives a bland performance. And I spent two hours watching it that I will never get back.
The real switch to “Switch” is a bait-and-switch. The movie is not so much an Aniston film, which is a big part of how it’s being sold, as it is a Bateman film.
Actually, that’s a good thing. After giving a number of spiffy comic supporting performances in films such as “Juno” and “Up in the Air,” it’s a pleasure to see the likable “Arrested Development” star get to stretch his wings in a leading role on the big screen.
He plays a neurotic financial analyst in New York who is too paralyzed by his own insecurities to realize that he’s in love with his best friend (Aniston), a TV news producer, much less to tell her so. When her biological clock starts ticking thunderously, she recruits a brainy hunk (Wilson) as a donor and, unaware that Bateman has effected a crucial substitution, moves back home to Minnesota to give birth and raise her son.
Flash forward to six years later when she returns to New York with her boy to take what she describes as a “great job at ABC” (thereby proving just how unrealistic the movie is, given that ABC News last year chopped its staff by close to a fourth). Will Bateman realize the boy is his? Will he be able to tell Aniston? Will they end up a family?
If you can’t figure out the answers, or expect the movie to surprise you with where it goes, you’re either clueless or are holding this bit of fluff up to too high a standard.
The first half of the movie, as written by Allan Loeb and directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, is saddled with setting up the donor switch shenanigans and plays like bad sitcom. The second half, which is mostly Bateman bonding with the kid and sweating out whether to confess the truth to Aniston, is more tolerable but still borders on predictable and precious.
And Aniston is just blah. She’s an adequate actress, but there are never any surprises in her work. She comes at every scene from the expected angle: the eyebrow quirks at the expected moment, the smile brightens after the expected number of beats. Her acting choices are the equivalent of painting a room beige.
But back to Bill O’Reilly. He might want to revise his list of all-time favorite movies, which includes such eyebrow raising choices, at least for his Fox News self, as “Easy Rider,” “Godfathers I and II” and “Shampoo.” Of those, only the “Godfather” films could possibly be said to espouse family values and, even then, of a decidedly warped nature. Let’s just hope O’Reilly isn’t inspired to express his displeasure with Aniston by putting a horse’s head in her bedroom.