Despite the fact that her post-Friends big screen career hasn’t exactly earned her any new friends or fans, Jennifer Aniston curiously continues to snag top billing. When was she ever a box office draw though? The Break-Up might qualify as a hit, but the laughs came equally (and I feel like I’m being overly generous here to Ms. Aniston) from co-star Vince Vaughan. Marley & Me? Owen Wilson and the dog carry the load there. Love Happens or The Bounty Hunter? I’m not sure either Aniston or her co-stars (Aaron Eckhart and Gerard Butler, respectively) shouldered all that much weight, which is among the reasons why these movies tanked and stank up the multiplexes. The bottom line, based on her recent output, is that she’s never had to carry a movie, nor has she proven that she can.
Which leads me to The Switch, and the not so subtle switch the marketing and publicity team attempts to play on viewers because this movie isn’t really a Jennifer Aniston picture. Truth be told, it is not much of a romantic comedy either, although it pretends to adhere to the generic (largely loveless) formula we’ve come to expect.
Kassie (Aniston), 40 years old and single, desires to have a baby and rather than asking her BFF Wally (Jason Bateman) to go in for half, she finds a sperm donor (Patrick Wilson) who seven years later wants to be more than a daddy donor to Kassie and her young son. Of course, there’s the little complication that the real donor is the neurotic Wally, who ruined the original contribution and had to offer his own in a pinch, without anyone knowing (including Wally who was lost in a drunken stupor).
The real star is Bateman. The movie is about Wally. He narrates and his voiceover alerts the discriminating viewer to the fact that the story comes from the pen of a writer (Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides), not just a screenwriter, yet he never sounds pretentious. He is the only character with a complete narrative arc. Bateman truly brings real humanity to what would otherwise be yet another middling misadventure in rom-com land. He’s not kidding around; he just happens to be smarter than almost everyone else in the frame with him (the exception would have to be Jeff Goldblum who is always quirky, brilliant and moving to several other beats playing in his head).
Bateman has turned on a major charm offensive over the last few years, sneakily stealing scene after scene in a wide variety of films (Hancock, Extract, Up in the Air not to mention Juno and The Kingdom -both alongside Jennifer Garner, the far more engaging Jennifer, if you ask me). Why wouldn’t Miramax just go ahead and push Bateman as the lead? He’s the one with the right stuff, so why waste it matching him up with a partner like Aniston who brings nothing substantial to the mix and then try to bury his superior contribution? (tt stern-enzi)