Far more surprising than the blinding preposterousness of The Switch‘s opening passages is the fact that the film smoothly recovers to become a passable character-driven rom-com. Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s follow-up to Blades of Glory commences dubiously, with neurotic equity trader Wally (Jason Bateman) freaking out over news that former flame and current platonic BFF Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) plans to have a child via in vitro. Even greater freaking out, however, occurs at Kassie’s nonsensical baby-conception party, during which Wally blackout-drunkenly replaces sperm donor Roland’s (Patrick Wilson) cupful of seed with his own. Seven years later, Kassie, having moved away to raise the kid, returns to Manhattan with son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), whose sullen mannerisms and hypochondriac phobias soon remind Wally of his boozy fluid ruse.
Having established such an only-in-the-movies setup, replete with a colorful confidant for both Kassie and Wally (coastingly played by Juliette Lewis and Jeff Goldblum, respectively), the film thus seems primed for increasingly wacky shenanigans. Yet directors Gordon and Speck confound expectations by instead toning down the ludicrousness and focusing their material on Wally, whose loneliness and fear of commitment are complicated by his still-burning feelings for Kassie as well as his budding closeness to kindred misfit Sebastian and the personal maturation said bond initiates.
Aniston’s single mom never feels like more than a conceit, and her early, desperate desire to procreate without an active male partner teeters perilously close to riffing on her recent tabloid persona. Still, the star seems relaxed and comfortable in the role, and her routine performance is elevated by an easy, natural rapport with Bateman, which mostly survives their characters’ incessantly phony circumstances.
Ultimately, though, it’s Bateman who carries The Switch, his deadpan moroseness bringing consistent humor to Wally’s struggles, and his ability to cast said drollness as a defense-mechanism outgrowth of his protagonist’s insecurity providing these About a Boy-lite proceedings with an empathetic center. Predictably, Wally and Kassie’s unique situation is resolved via contrived dramatic machinations, and in a manner so rushed as to come off as nearly an afterthought. But before that anticlimax, in Bateman’s articulation of confused anxiety and need, the film (to risk damning with faint praise) comes closer to capturing a measure of emotional truth than many of its genre brethren.