Anyone else noticing that Jennifer Aniston's movies tend tomirror her personal life more and more with every one that comes out?Seriously, why is she the perpetually single Hollywood celebrity? She's moretalented and beautiful than 90% of all of the women working in movies today. Ifeel like she's been getting wronged by famous men and tabloids for more than adecade now, although I'm glad to see that the wholeartificial-insemination-sperm-swap has only happened to her in the fictionalpart of her life, so at least she has that going for her.
It may be true that the movie as a whole is a celebration oftypecasting, but it's also true that everyone involved is playing a role thatthey've long since proven the ability to pull off well, so who are we tocomplain now?
Aniston plays herself, a 40-ish unmarried woman(here going by Kassie Larson), who has finally given in and turned to herback-up plan, you might say, of heading to the clinic to be injected with anartificial pregnancy. Jason Bateman is in top form as her geeky but comfortingbest friend. He does things like get a little too aroused by a picture of DianeSawyer, fail to tell the girl that he loves that he loves her, and switch hissperm for that of her donor's (and no jokes about one of his last movies being called Extract, by the way). You know, fairly standard behavior for a guynamed Wally Mars.
In her search for the sperm necessary for her artificialpregnancy, Kassie managed to find a guy with movie-star good looks, a winningpersonality, and a name like Roland and not Wally. Roland (Patrick Wilson), has more success than Wally, possibly because people sharingnames with the most famous trash compactor in the world might find it difficultto be taken seriously by women in the bedroom, turkey baster or not. But hopefully the real Wally'sof the world won't be driven to such desperate extremes as to sadistically replace sperm samples in a drunkenstupor.
So anyway, the switch isn't discovered until seven yearslater when Wally finally meets Kassie's (and his own) son, who bears a strikingresemblance to his neurotic father. Not a bad conception for a plot, and onethat allows for much more dramatic and touching development than most romanticcomedies that come out these days, even some of Aniston's own, which I tend toenjoy, but of course there are exceptions.
The movie has a great first third but unfortunately devolvesinto a few too many clichés in the second half, although this is all butinevitable in today's theaters. And most importantly, Bateman and Aniston notonly fit their characters well, but they have great chemistry and play off ofeach other much better than she did with Gerard Butler in the disappointing BountyHunter earlier this year.
The movie was based on a story called "Baster," written by TheVirgin Suicides author Jeffrey Eugenidesand published in The New Yorkerin 1996. Eugenides story, as he describes, deals with the age-old Darwinistquestion, Is it better to be good-looking or clever? Both are ideal, I suppose,but the original story is about an unattractive man in love with a beautifulwoman, and the seeds of this premise can be clearly seen in TheSwitch, although Jason Bateman hardlyqualifies as an unattractive man, and Aniston's inability to find someonewilling to participate in the miracle of procreation with her would becompletely unbelievable if it didn't keep happening to her in real life. Ithink she just keeps picking the wrong guy. I'm talkin' to you, Butler!
I haven't read Eugenides original story, but I understandthat it ends shortly after the birth of the baby, while the movie chooses thispoint to deploy its avalanche of clichés and tack on its Hollywood ending.Still, it takes itself more seriously than most romantic comedies pumped out bythe Hollywood machine, and it earns the right, too. The story is told fromWally's point of view and therefore comes off as Bateman's film despite Anistonbeing a much longer-standing celebrity, but he plays his character straightenough to hold the film up and prevent it from collapsing into a self-parodyingimplosion, which was a tangible possibility.
Also, the movies goes to great lengths to play into thehands of the majority of the human race, of both sexes, as it were, most ofwhom were not blessed with the kind of rugged and timeless good looks thatresult in careers as super famous movie stars. It focuses on the insecurity ofits lead character as one of the main catalysts that drives the plot, butultimately comes off with the message that all of Wally's problems weren'tbound up in his lack of physical prowess or his unfortunate name, but in hisown head. You never know if you don't ask, as they say, which should fill theheads of the movie's audience with dreams of possibilities.
The Bean Meter