Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seed Corn

All these weeks I thought "The Switch" was a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman and also, thanks to the fuss Bill O'Reilly kicked up, a paean to single motherhood. Instead, it's a vehicle for a touching love story between a father and son, Wally (played by Bateman) and Sebastian (the charming Thomas Robinson), who bond over their shared hypochondria and dad's suggestions for dealing with playground bullies.

Wally was abandoned by his own father and so has been unable to take an emotional stand, especially when it comes to admitting to Kassie (Aniston's character) that he loves her. But long before he realizes they're related, he finds Wally impossible to resist. The best scenes feature just the two of them. Sebastian inherited an adult dose of his father's anxiety but none of his timidity. An animal rights advocate, at nine he refuses to blow out the candles on his birthday cake unless a family friend agrees to adopt a three-legged dog from a local kill shelter. Drawn to Sebastian's gutsy little man, Wally finally discovers his inner one.

While Aniston's not incidental by any means, she's stationery. As with her and many of her leading men (such as those in "Along Came Polly," The Breakup," and "Love Happens"), she abides in sunny, grownup charm while Wally seeks after the wisdom and self-awareness to which men must attain in order to adore and serve her.

More or less in the middle of his heart's 13-year travail, he becomes Wally's father by substituting his sperm for Aniston's intended donor's. He obtains it while gazing at a picture of a prominent member of Richard Nixon's White House staff and indulging his imagination. The movie is at its most unrealistic when it begs us to believe that for the first nine years of Wally's life, he doesn't remember doing this. In equally lame scenes, he plants the seed (in the form of an incoherent drunken delusion) with his colleague and best friend, played by Jeff Goldbum, who conveniently helps him recover the memory years later. That's not to say that the gangly, off-beat Goldblum doesn't do a great job. Besides, he's rooting for Aniston the whole time -- and so are we, because that's what we do.

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