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It's okay to make 'The Switch'

Published September 01. 2010 05:00PM

"The Switch" is charming, funny and thought-provoking, although you might not realize it from the movie's unimaginative title.

Not the least of the romantic-comedy's charms are Jennifer Aniston as a single woman who decides to become a mother; Jason Bateman, as her best buddy of 13 years; Jeff Goldblum as the boss at the investment firm where Bateman works; Juliette Lewis, as one of Aniston's friends; and Thomas Robinson as Aniston's son, Sebastian.

While you may not have heard of "The Switch," the movie, you probably have heard about Aniston's statement, to the effect that a woman doesn't need to be married to become a mother.

Aniston's opinion, which is nearly verbatim from her character's dialogue in the screenplay, drew the ire of Bill O'Reilly, who called her "destructive to society" on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor."

"The Switch" is one of those movies that crossed over from the entertainment columns to the op-ed columns in America's increasingly vitriolic culture wars.

Don't be put off by the controversy, which Aniston ignited during interviews hyping her movie. Whether this was a marketing ploy by the movie's distributor, or not, "The Switch" is worth seeing. Reilly, if he hasn't seen the movie, might even like it for the script's ultimately warm-fuzzy, pro-family sentiments.

For whatever reason, "The Switch" had me blubbering and dabbing my eyes with no pocket Kleenex in sight. The movie has heart. It presents a contemporary topic in a very entertaining and sensitive manner.

Josh Gordon and Will Speck (co-directors, "Blades of Glory") co-direct from a screenplay, filled with smart dialogue, by Allan Loeb ("21," "Things We Lost in the Fire," upcoming "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"), based on a short story published in The New Yorker magazine by Jeffrey Eugenides ("The Virgin Suicides" novel).

The plot is slight and the movie has at least two music video style "contemplative" sequences to pad it, as well as some scenes that work better than others.

The movie opens with time-lapse photography of New York City commuters moving at a torrid pace. The cliché conclusion is: "That's why it's called the human race."

Wally (Bateman) meets his best friend, Kassie (Aniston) and, true to form, he's late. Over lunch, Kassie, an unmarried 40-year-old TV producer, confides she'd like to have a child, and drops the now infamous line, "I don't need a man to have a baby."

After Kassie has the baby she moves from New York City to the Midwest and then back again. The movie captures the frenetic and sophisticated New York state of mind, which Kassie misses.

She begins dating Roland (Patrick Wilson), even as Wally becomes her go-to babysitting guy and bonds with her son, Sebastian. Wally grows increasingly conflicted. "Life is in session," indeed, as Kassie says.

"The Switch" provides a good role for Aniston. She's in a familiar realm of, yes, "Friends." She's cute, but not cloying. She has those ravishing big blue eyes and that somewhat erratic part in her hair. Aniston also does, pun intended, the pregnant pause, extremely well. And she glowers ever so convincingly.

Bateman, who here resembles Mike Myers and Charlie Sheen, is such a likeable presence. He does "neurotic" really well, which, as he points out, could just be another way of saying "introspective."

Wilson exudes a smarmy charm as Kassie's boyfriend. The eccentric Lewis is great fun. Gawky Goldblum is one of the screen's most unusual presences and always a joy to watch.

It's Robinson, as Sebastian, however, who steals every scene he's in. This young actor handles difficult dialogue well. His sad eyes and brave smile are priceless. The scenes with Robinson and Bateman are among the film's best.

So, if you're looking for an enjoyable two hours from Hollywood's ever-diminishing genre of non R-rated romantic comedy, like those that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks used to make ("Sleepless in Seattle," 1993, for example), then make "The Switch."

"The Switch,"' MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language; Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance; Distributed by Miramax Films.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "The Switch" was filmed in New York City and, no, a Canadian city was not used as a substitute.

Box Office, Aug. 20: "The Expendables" were not expendable, again at No. 1, with $16.5 million and $64.8 million after two weeks, battling off five new films that more or less bombed, the biggest bomb being Jennifer Aniston's "The Switch."

2. "Vampires Suck," $12.2 million; $18.5 million, since Aug. 18 opening; 3. "Eat Pray Love," $12 million, $47.1 million, two weeks; 4. "Lottery Ticket," $11.1 million, opening; 5. "The Other Guys," $10.1 million, $88.1 million, three weeks; 6. "Piranha 3D," $10 million, opening; 7. "Nanny McPhee Returns," $8.3 million, opening; 8. "The Switch," $8.1 million, opening; 9. "Inception," $7.6 million, $261.8 million, six weeks; 10. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," $5 million, $20.7 million, two weeks

Unreel, Aug. 27: "Takers," PG-13: Matt Dillon plays a detective who intercedes in a bank robbery. Also stars Chris Brown, T.I., Zoe Saldana, Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen.

"The Last Exorcism," PG-13: The title says it all.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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