If one were to teach a class on screenwriting pitfalls, a section of the syllabus would clearly have to be dedicated to the disasters that befall projects with unlikable characters. Screenwriters need to be aware of the problems that come with writing characters that the audience can sense even the director and actors involved don't really like. One of the sessions could feature a dissection of the truly horrendous The Switch with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston if the professor weren't afraid that doing so might send students running to drop the class. With one of the worst screenplays in a very long time (shockingly based on a short story by one of our best writers, Jeffrey Eugenides), The Switch is almost worth seeing as a comparative point to other bad movies. "Well, that was bad, but it was better than The Switch." There's almost nothing that works about this dead-on-arrival mess. It has no personality, awful performances, dull pacing, and is ultimately a romantic comedy without an ounce of romance and not one genuine laugh. Reasonably diverting supporting performances by Jeff Goldblum and Patrick Wilson are the only things that keep the proceedings from zero-star/F-grade disaster. But everything about the center of the film is an unbearable chore – literally the worst thing that Bateman or Aniston have yet produced and that's saying something, especially for the latter, who has taken a once-promising film career and torpedoed it with a series of very bad career choices.
Jason Bateman has always excelled at taking flawed characters and making them likable through their character problems but this talented actor is completely dismantled by a lead role that's beyond anyone's reach. There's simply no reason to care about what happens to the morose, petulant, childish, and annoying Wally Mars. He's a pessimistic bore who appears to do accounting work (with Goldblum) during the day and sulks around New York at night. He's been stuck in the friend zone with potential love interest Kassie Larson (Jennifer Aniston) for years but has always harbored more intense feelings for her that's he's been afraid to fully express. As for Kassie, I'm stuck to even come up with a description for her for a plot synopsis. She is a non-character, a plot device masquerading as a romantic lead. It is one of the least interesting roles played by a leading actress in the history of film.
Kassie's only purpose is to play up the clichés of a woman with a ticking biological clock. She decides she's had enough and will turn to artificial insemination to have the child she so desperately wants (because in Hollywood, no 40-year-old woman is complete without a baby). Her obnoxious friend Debbie (Juliette Lewis, who over-acts and exaggerates more like an early-1990s Sandra Bernhard every day) actually holds an insemination party to celebrate the choosing of Roland (Patrick Wilson) as "the seed guy." A drunken Wally accidentally spills Roland's seed down the sink and decides to replace it with his own. Wally can't remember the event, Kassie moves away, and the film flashes forward seven years to a returning Kassie now with a kid who looks and acts a lot like Wally. Our half-empty hero learns to find love when he realizes he's happy being a dad.
Romantic comedies require characters that the audience want to see find happiness with one another. I'd rather see these two run over by a bus. Aniston's Kassie is too much of a non-character to care about and Wally is simply a jerk. These two mopey idiots are nearly unbearable to watch for the film's running time and if not for the occasional diversion by Goldblum and what's actually a relatively honest performance from Wilson, I imagine movie goers would run screaming for the exits. Or at least start screaming for someone to switch the movie.
Rating: HALF BONE
Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)
Release Date: August 20th, 2010
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis, and Jeff Goldblum
Directors: Josh Gordon & Will Speck
Writer: Allan Loeb