Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Patrick Wilson, Thomas Robinson Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis. Miramax.
Decent Films Ratings
Content advisory: Casual acceptance of artificial insemination, implied masturbation, much sexual humor, some crude language, brief rear nudity and out-of-focus frontal nudity.
This review originally appeared at Reel Faith.
By Steven D. Greydanus
The Switch is about an attractive woman in her early 40’s with a history of unfortunate relationships and a gnawing concern that she’s been hitting the snooze button on her biological alarm clock for too long. I can’t imagine why they cast Jennifer Aniston.
Kassie (Aniston) eventually finds the man she’s looking for: a dependable, good-looking guy with no commitment issues who is ready to become a father. Okay, so he’s already married, but Kassie only wants his sperm, and his wife is okay with it, especially as they could use the money. In our day and age, alas, the unitive and the procreative have drifted so far apart that no one perceives this transaction as an affront to anything.
Well, one person perceives it as an affront to something: For Kassie’s neurotic friend Wally (Jason Bateman), the thought of Kassie bearing another other’s man’s child is an affront to the feelings he has for Kassie, which are unacknowledged even to himself, let alone to her.
This must be why, at her get-pregnant party (replete with fertility fetishes and the like), Wally (a) gets blindingly drunk, (b) jealously opens the donor’s donation container which he finds in the bathroom, (c) jokingly toys with the idea of washing the sample down the drain, (d) slips and drops the cup, (e) panics, and (f) decides to replace the lost donation with his own.
I wouldn’t be too hard on him for (a).
The filmmakers would like you to think that (a) covers a multitude of sins (see b-f), but alcohol (as another critic I read pointed out) doesn’t make you do things that you would otherwise find reprehensible — it just suppresses inhibitions. On some level, Wally is acting out on his deep feelings, and what he’s doing to his “friend” is a violation of her dignity not far removed from rape.
Of course Kassie gets pregnant on the first try (this is the movies), and moves away to raise her child near her parents. Then, seven years later, she’s back in town for a brief reunion with the donor daddy, who happens to be newly divorced. Cue Wally’s jealousies, again.
And of course the kid, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), is a precocious but neurotic little thing whose quirks and mannerisms are suspiciously familiar to Wally (though strangely Kassie never noticed, even when her son does things she has complained about Wally doing, such as grunting with pleasure as he eats).
Unfortunately, while Wally does manage to develop some genuine daddy skills, and comes through believably for Sebastian, as regards Kassie his arrested emotional development never really goes anywhere. Even when he finally confesses and professes his love for her, he can’t really put her feelings first.
The Switch does manage some real ambivalence about the whole business, beginning with Kassie’s muted feelings of apprehension and melancholy at the “party” that was supposed to make the whole thing “fun,” to the obvious emotional hole in Sebastian’s life, represented by his collection of picture frames with original generic prints of photo models, whom he invests with imaginary family histories.
In the end The Switch acknowledges that Sebastian needs both of his parents, which means that they need to put up with one another. This, of course, is why Catholic moral teaching rejects the method of conception that brought Sebastian into the world (along with divorce and remarriage, etc.), but don’t expect a Hollywood movie to come within a hundred yards of that notion anytime soon.