I’m no marketing mastermind, but I think I have a possible partial explanation for why The Switch wasn’t able to do Pixar-level business on its first week in theaters. Have you seen those posters? It’s possible that most people weren’t exactly intrigued at the image of co-star Jason Bateman turning up his nose as he tentatively sniffs at a cup full of Elmer’s Man-Glue. There’s just GOT to be a better way to sell an artificial-insemination comedy (assuming that one has gone ahead with making one in the first place.)
I don’t know, maybe it’s not a great idea in general to center a romantic comedy plot around bodily fluid. Can you imagine a movie high-concept based in doo-doo or pee-pee? Because obviously I have a couple:
Luke Wilson is a down-on-his-luck promoter who has somehow booked a huge concert at Madison Square Garden starring a reunited rock supergroup whose lead singer has well-publicized substance abuse problems. Rosario Dawson is the corporate insurance official who is responsible for making sure that the high-stakes show goes off without a hitch. Luke has to make sure that the rock star stays clean for the show, Rosario is the one who has to be present at every piss test. Throughout the inevitable hi-jinks, Luke and Rosario win each other’s hearts. Mickey Rourke plays the rock star. The movie is called Pissed Off.
Tobey Maguire is a horse-drawn carriage driver in Central Park. Jessica Alba is an up-and-coming advertising copywriter who is taking a ride with her douchebag fiancée, played by Hugh Jackman. Unbeknownst to her at first, Alba loses the memory stick containing her presentation to bid for an upcoming account with Vitamin Water. (The meeting is with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, in a surprise cameo.) When she finally tracks down Maguire, they find the memory stick but then the horse swallows it. Unfortunately, this particular horse (voice of Mickey Rourke) has chronic constipation. As they work together to help the horse divulge itself of the necessary object, Maguire and Alba win each other’s hearts. The movie is called Pooped.
Okay, so maybe I had a point the first time around. Maybe it’s not the best idea after all. The Switch is based around an incident with male byproduct – I know that spunk has baby-making properties that the other offal I mentioned don’t possess, but that doesn’t mean that we need to see it onscreen, or to even think about it on a date night at the movies, when – not for nothing – we’re dipping our hands into popcorn buckets which are already drenched in a funky buttery substance.
And it’s a shame, because apart from the unfortunate concept which was the reason for the movie getting made in the first place, The Switch is actually a likable movie. It’s certainly no worse than most modern romantic comedies, and it’s even better than a lot of them (such as pretty much everything that Sandra Bullock does). The secret ingredient (woops) is the pairing of Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston, one of the more likable tag-teams I’ve seen in a movie like this in quite a while. At this point, Bateman is a master criminal of comedy, having stolen every single movie he’s appeared in over the last decade – from Dodgeball to State Of Play to Smokin’ Aces and so on and on and on and on. He’s also a good enough actor to convincingly play a shlub with a decade-long crush on an unattainable woman – it definitely strains belief that a guy as hilarious and as quick with a quip as Bateman would have a problem telling a girl how he feels, but he makes it make sense. And I’m sorry, but Aniston is my cup of tea entirely, and I don’t even drink tea, but I bet she does and I’d very gladly put my preferences on hold to take her out for tea. Anyway, it’s not a stretch for her to play the unattainable woman who keeps a shlub hanging on to a decade-long crush. Maybe I could relate to the situation. Who knows. It’s not really the writing or the direction that do much for the authenticity that The Switch somehow manages to achieve at times. It’s that relatability – most of us have been there (except for the whole artificial insemination subplot), most of us have yearned for someone we couldn’t bring ourselves to fully pursue – and the great work by both actors, not to mention the terrifically warm performance by the very young Thomas Robinson as their precocious progeny, that gives The Switch its several genuine moments.
But it’s not good enough. I think the reason is – besides the whole artificial insemination subplot, of course – that the movie dwells on Bateman’s perspective at the expense of Aniston’s. It’s the same old American-movie hang-up: Male filmmakers making movies from the male perspective, even when the story makes more sense and is more interesting from the woman’s side. How does Aniston’s character really feel about Bateman’s? How does she feel when he hijacks her pregnancy, for whatever reason? Why did she want to get pregnant so badly in the first place? What is her life like when she leaves town for seven years? How does she feel when she finds out what her best friend did? See, the real interesting questions are all on the female side of the story. It’s fun to watch Bateman do what he does, and I personally get the guy perspective, but the better, bolder movie would’ve made Aniston’s character the protagonist rather than the dream girl.
Besides, this image would have made a much better poster. Again, I’m no marketing mastermind, but I know which billboard I’d rather be looking at.