Critical Mass: ‘The Switch’
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The reviews have not been kind for Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman’s latest comedy, “The Switch,” which is, as the posters proclaim, “From the people who brought you ‘Juno’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’ " It has a Pulitzer Prize pedigree, since its source of inspiration was from Pulitzer-winner Jeffrey Eugenides’ short story, “Baster.”
Sadly, all the good genes in the world can’t keep this child from coming out deficient and unloved.
Writing in The Times, critic Betsy Sharkey bucks the opinions of most other critics and finds many nice things to say. She calls the film a “Bate-and-switch affair,” in that the film is “more his journey than hers, more satire than slapstick.” Instead of “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine,” she compares it to “About a Boy” and “The Kids Are All Right,” though she concludes “the film never quite rises to the level of either, the filmmakers show enough restraint to keep things interesting.”
While Sharkey applauded Bateman’s surprising turn in “The Switch,” New York Daily News critic Joe Neumaier could only shake his head and view Bateman’s work as valiant but ultimately futile. “He’s swimming against the tide,” Neumaier writes. “Because as hard as Bateman tries to save ‘The Switch’ — which sounds like a mystical body-changing comedy, but is not — the reality is that the DNA this movie is working from is hackneyed, bland and dopey with a dollop of outré. It’s Judd Apatow lite, Farrelly brothers special blend. Just call it ‘When Harry Met Sally and Her Ovum.’ ”
Slate film critic Dana Stevens’ heart rests with the original New Yorker short story and can only pine for the Aniston-Bateman film that could have been. She starts off describing the “ineluctable cloud of melancholy” that hangs over the film and explains that “the sadness comes from the audience’s sense that inside this slick, conventional romantic comedy there’s a tender, scruffy little movie struggling to get out.”
The same sadness hovers over Boston Globe writer Wesley Morris’ review, which boldly proclaims that “the romantic comedy has never had a star as depressing as Jennifer Aniston.” He goes on to describe “The Switch” as “in-flight entertainment grating enough to send more than a fed-up flight attendant shrieking down an inflatable slide.”
New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden had his hopes raised by the film’s first third, which he says is “so bizarre that it leads you to wonder if, through some miraculous lack of oversight, the movie will blaze an unpredictable path. No such luck.” But Holden is not one to lay blanket criticisms over the film -- he can pinpoint the precise moment it goes off the rails: a scene in which Bateman’s neurotic bachelor spots his unknown son on a bus. Unfortunately, Holden points out, “the glaring fact remains that the two look nothing alike, and no one would ever think they did.”
Over at MTV, Kurt Loder shows much love for the Bateman, but can’t muster any enthusiasm for the film. “Bateman, so expert at underplaying comic characters, has a character here that’s so thinly conceived it can’t bear much underplaying.” Shockingly, Loder ends his review with a note: “This is the last review I’ll be doing for MTVNews.com. I’d like to thank everybody who’s clicked in for the past six years for all the feedback — the good, the bad, even the outraged. It’s definitely been fun.”
We can only hope it wasn’t Jennifer Aniston who drove him away. The sadness cloud lingers.
-- Patrick Kevin Day
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