Switch, The: Romantic Comedy Starring Jennifer Aniston

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Jennifer Aniston, the star and exec producer of the new romantic comedy “The Switch” seems more engaged in this picture than in her recent efforts, perhaps because of the fact that she plays a woman her age, around 40, single, and in the entertainment industry.

But like other Aniston vehicles, despite its timely subject, “The Switch” is a disappointingly formulaic and utterly predictable feature; in fact, if you read the press release and watch the trailer and TV spots, you can figure out not only what the movie is about, but how exactly it will evolve and end.
“The Switch” also raises the question of what to make of Aniston as a movie star, who still acts (or behaves in front of the cameras) as is she is in a TV sit-com. To her credit, Aniston is the only performer of the hit TV show “Friends” who has had a viable big screen career.  However, so far, with a few exceptions, she has made only mediocre or below-mediocre pictures, most of which have also been moderate successes or failures.
I doubt whether the controversy (and free publicity) between star-exec producer Jennifer Aniston and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly over artificial insemination and single motherhood would much help “The Switch” at the box-office, when Miramax releases it August 20.  Forone thing, the Julia Roberts romantic feature, “Eat Pray Love” is still running strong.
The estimable source material of “The Switch” is “Baster,” the 1996 short story by Pulitzer-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, who had provided the literary source to Sofia Coppola’s interesting feature debut in 1999, “The Virgin Suicides.”  But, alas, there is no comparison betweeen Eugenides’ tale and “The Swiych” for reasons that I’ll mention below.
In the first reel, we get introduced to the two protagonists, the dour, hypochondriac stockbroker Wally (Jason Bateman) and the perky TV producer Kassie (Aniston). Over a luncheon in a cool Manhattan restaurant, Wally shows Kassie an iPhone a photo of his genitals, on which there’s some sort of growth. To cheer him up, Kassie changes the subject and announces that she is going to have a baby, a product of a sperm donor.
Surprised and bewildered, Waly expresses his strong opinions on the matter, but Kassie, equally strong-headed, is determined to pursue her scheme.  Cut to Kassie’s insemination party, where Wally meets her sperm donor (the handsomer Patrick Wilson).  Is is having fun? Not exactly. But he certainly drinks a lot, as a result of which he spills the donor’s seeds and surreptitiously replaces it with his own.
The tale then jumps to seven years later, when Kassie movies out of Michigan and goes back to New York with her six-year-old Sebastian (Thomas Robinson, who setals every secene he is in).
Predictably, the boy turns out to be neurotic, hypochondriac, cynical and savvy well beyond his years. And of course, he is eager to meet his dad. Would the long-separated father and son like each other, perhaps even bond?
Need I tell more of the plot?
“The Switch” lacks charm and wit and poignancy, qualities that are all evident in LIsa Cholodenko’s far superior and relevant comedy, “The Kids Are All Right,” which is also about an anonymous sperm donor (Mark Ruffallo), who comes back into the lives of two lesbian mothers (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) and their two teenage children.
The film’s problems that are obvious from the very beginning. Take Wally’s voiceover narration when the saga begins: “We’re always rushed, always late; I guess that’s why they call it the human race.” No kidding.

Borrowing from Eugenides’s story (qhich was darker and offbeat) only the basic the premise, most of the script, penned by Allan Loeb) has been reinvented to conform to the standards of a mainstream, schematic romantic comedy, rather than to poignant social observations of how people who are in those situations actually behave.

Aniston is not just the star but also the exec-producer, which means she not only makes more money but must have seen it as a good part for her.  A likable, perky performer, Aniston lacks depth and star charisma–she does not command you to watch her, and it may be time to try another genre, perhaps drama or melodrama, to bring out her talents as an actress.  Right now, most of her movies are an extension of her TV work.