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The Switch, or Adventures with the Painfully Uninteresting

August 25, 2010

Hello, all. Wonder where we’ve been? So do we.

Anyhow, let’s dive back in  like nothing ever happened (not unlike all of Charlie Sheen’s exes) and start with a review of The Switch. I saw it a couple of days ago and… well, I’m just a mishmash of emotions. I’m not terribly upset that I paid for it, but I am upset about almost everything else.

This movie is about as plain granola mixed with vanilla yogurt one movie can get. It’s cardboard, people. It’s ridiculously uninteresting any time Jennifer Aniston is on screen and only vaguely interesting (as in, I’m not doing anything else so I might as well keep watching) when she’s not. The first mistake the marketing team behind this film made was promoting it as a “Jennifer Aniston movie.” This is a critique for another time, but let’s all be honest with ourselves: Jennifer Aniston is not that great of an actress. She was good in The Good Girl and passable in Marley & Me, but as my mother always says, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. As Celebitchy so cleverly summed up for us, she was a good-enough TV actress that rode the publicity of a shitty breakup into a monumental movie career, even though she’s proven time and time and time again that she cannot carry one.

Seriously, just examining her IMDB profile is like looking at a warehouse full of dud bombs – few of them had even enough life to give off a spark or two, and when they did, it was hardly her own accomplishment. Consider Marley & Me, a film that had the big draw of a cute and furry animal and the charming Owen Wilson, and you have to understand that some of Aniston’s most recent successful movies were not successful because of her, specifically. (This assessment is purposefully omitting analysis of that perturbing anomaly The Bounty Hunter, which had a moderate success that this bitch will never understand.)

Beyond Aniston, this movie is mainly a “Jason Bateman movie.” Seriously, it is. I was actually kind of taken aback. Sure, the storyline’s a tad also-ran but to market is a Jennifer Aniston movie was a mistake. Bateman is the narrator and the action of it all centers around his character. He makes the catalyst choices, he supplies the denouement. All of which only further serves to confuse me – why did this have to be an Aniston movie at all? She can’t sell a movie, we know that for sure, so why did we feel so obligated to slap her name and face at the top of it like that would put asses in seats? Ugh, these people.

Anyhow, back to The Switch. Let’s talk about the fabulous parts. Jeff Goldblum is a highlight during his time on screen playing Jeff Goldblum, the Buddy. His one-liners are pitch-perfect and his silent facial expressions are delivered with subtle expertise. Every time he is on screen, you can see that he knows that he is owning this movie and doesn’t care that he’s showing off – and it comes off as totally hilarious. Kudos to whoever roped him into this heap, because he was a total gem.

Jason Bateman is also, unsurprisingly, delightful. Although he occasionally looks bored to tears (you and me both, sweet pea), he spends most of the movie playing the downtrodden, hypochondriac misanthrope with endearing grace. It’s a testament to his skill and general likeability that I didn’t hate him in this movie even though his character has few redeeming qualities at the outset and only a few more than he started with by the end.

And, the best part of all, little Thomas Robinson. This kid is dynamite. Let’s all join hands, do a rain dance and chant to our dead ancestors that he doesn’t turn out like Gary Coleman, because this kid is a star. Those huge eyes! That unironic navel-gazing! The spouting of useless animal and disease trivia at inopportune times! I want this kid to be my pet. Until, of course, he ages into pubescence and is no longer the tow-headed cutie I oohed and aahed over in sheer delight, then you can do with him what you will.

But, even though the aforementioned were the much desired oases in the middle of the desert, there’s still the desert to consider. And let’s.

We’ve already dealt with this, but Jennifer Aniston did not ring one true note the entire time she was on screen. To her credit, she was not required to do any real actor backflips with the material she had, but Jesus if Jennifer Aniston isn’t just Being Jennifer Aniston in every. fucking. movie. Give me a break, already. She is the 41-year-old, female Michael Cera! The two of them, with the identical facial expressions and hand gestures and lack of range! For either of them to finally do something different than the single-but-not-alone, independent-but-not-a-feminazi 40-something or the awkward, shy, and did-I-mention-awkward?-teenager, respectively, would be a gift from the gods. But I digress. Why beat a dead horse? Aniston is boring. That’s all. She’s all white paper and plain, steamed rice and I couldn’t suppress my rolling eyes.

The story itself is only mildly cute, which didn’t help Jennifer and was only partially boosted by Jason (yes, first names, we’re among our people now). If you don’t know already, the dude, Wally, is best friends with the dudette, Kassie, and also in love with her, because one must go hand in hand with the other, so sayeth The Hollywood. So anyway, Kassie is all I-am-woman, hear-me-roar and 40 and single (but not alone! never alone!), and her biological clock is ticking so loud it’s also the film’s soundtrack. Enter Roland (Patrick Wilson), the traditionally cute alpha-male, who agrees to be the donor because he needs the money (because nothing could go wrong with that kind of motivation, amirite?), and apparently Bradley Cooper was busy. Juliette Lewis is here, too, but that’s just because she’s Juliette Lewis the Quirky One and is apparently a stock, odd character now (you’ll note that in recent years she’s been replaced as extraneously weird by Zooey Deschanel). Speaking of stock and weird, Jeff Goldblum wanders in & out, too, all bird-like and godly, spouting wisdom in the form of non-sequiturs and head tilts. Bless him, I say!

Juliette Lewis – I don’t even remember her character’s name! – decides that Kassie just has to throw an “I’m getting pregnant!” party because “everyone’s doing it that way these days.” (Srsly, NYC? This is a “thing”?) Roland’s invited to the party and he brings his wallflower wife, who in her five seconds of screen time gives the magical facial expression I wore the entire time I was watching this dreck, one of purely unadulterated embarrassment and disbelief.

At said party, music is happening, people are drinking and being merry, Juliette gives Wally a weird “herbal” relaxation pill, and Roland goes into the bathroom to summon his, uh, offering. And he does. Right there at the party. Because that’s what people do these days. Cut to a few minutes later, Wally is shithoused on booze and a pill he never should’ve taken (it’s right up there in the handbook with “never follow a hippie to a second location!” C’mon, Wally.) and he stumbles drunkenly into the bathroom to pee and also pass out intermittently. He sees the sample, which is placed on a shelf next to a candle like an offering – an offering, people! – and does some weird, drunken juggling, and “accidently” spills Roland’s, ahem, seed. Into the sink and down the drain, there goes Roland’s future FCA-leading, surfer-body babies. Seeing no other recourse, Batemen takes himself to funky town (whilst, mild spoiler alert, staring at a picture of Diane Sawyer no less) and replaces the sample with his own. Hijinks predictably ensue.

Kassie moves back to Minnesota (a tribute to both the character’s and Aniston’s blandness is that she could’ve been from anywhere, at any time) to be closer to her family while she’s pregnant. Seven years later, she gets a job in NYC and decided to move back, bringing her son Sebastian along with her. Then some other stuff happens and really, at this point, you could predict it all by yourself if you cared enough. I’m guessing you don’t.

It wasn’t a nightmarish way to spend two hours but I’ll be damned if I recommend it to anyone. There are hardly any stand out moments and for a “comedy” film, I only laughed out loud three times, two of which were entirely related to Jeff Goldblum being, as I said before, Jeff Goldblum. This movie is probably the least memorable film I’ve seen in ages, and for that, I’ll give it a C+ or a B- (I seriously don’t even care!) and forget it ever happened, like most of America.

And an addendum: for the Aniston apologists out there (they exist!) who say that this film was an indie that didn’t do half-bad, considering, let’s really look at the numbers, shall we? Because the film’s budget was $16 million, fairly paltry for this day and age, and only made $8 million back upon release. Now, that’s not half bad for an indie, but it’s not an indie. It was put out by not one but two mainstream studios, Miramax being one of them, who promoted the film relentlessly all over primetime television and paid for Aniston to promote on every major entertainment show known to God and man. It made just over $5,000/theater! That is nothing for a movie of this caliber… and no, I don’t mean quality, I mean release status. And in any event, purely anecdotal but still totally relevant, this week I also went to see Winter’s Bone (Aside: hands down one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Ever.) and there were more people in the theater for a late night, midweek showing at an indie/arthouse cinema than at an early evening, first weekend showing of The Switch in a huge, mainstream, well-frequented movie theater. Period, full stop. If that’s not a testament to Aniston’s supposed drawing power, I don’t know what is.

See this movie at your own risk. Bring a flask!

-The Bitch

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