Not a single moment rings true in "The Switch," which is unfortunate because it's actually about a situation in which a lot of women find themselves.
Jennifer Aniston's character, Kassie, is a single, 40-year-old New York TV producer who wants to have a baby but doesn't want to wait around for a man — or worse yet, the wrong man — to make that happen. So she turns to a sperm donor, only to have her longtime best friend, the uptight stock trader Wally (Jason Bateman), switch the specimens in a drunken stupor.
Why, you may be wondering, does Wally even have access to the cup that contains the makings of Kassie's future child? Because the whole deal is going down at an insemination party thrown by the movie's obligatory wacky best friend (Juliette Lewis), complete with jokey turkey basters. Like most situations — and like the similarly hokey "The Back-up Plan" from earlier this year, starring Jennifer Lopez — this one is played in broad, sitcommy fashion, utterly divorced from the way people behave in real life.
"Baster" is actually the name of the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jeffrey Eugenides (who also wrote "The Virgin Suicides"), which provides the basis for "The Switch." But the way directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck ("Blades of Glory") play it, there's little humanity to be found — and even less real humor.
Aniston and Bateman both have long, strong TV comedy backgrounds; Aniston, when given smart writing to work with in films like "The Good Girl" and "Friends With Money," has proven herself an actress of unexpected depth. Here, they just get nothing to work with. Their characters are barely-drawn types, and in Wally's case, they're barely likable. Aniston and Bateman have so little chemistry, you actually wonder how their characters ended up friends with each other, much less best friends.
Of course, beyond that, Wally's always been secretly in love with Kassie and incapable of connecting with any other woman. He's miserable, which would be fine if he were interesting, but this guy's just a dud (and a waste of Bateman's deadpan wit and verbal dexterity). And the child who emerges from Wally's switch is so precocious and neurotic himself, he resembles no other 6-year-old on the planet. Which is, of course, the gag: He's just like Wally. But despite young actor Thomas Robinson's saucer-eyed cuteness, it feels creepy and forced rather than funny.
Kassie assumes her baby comes courtesy of the seed from Roland (Patrick Wilson), a blond-haired, blue-eyed, athletic go-getter of a donor. Once she gets pregnant, she goes home to Minnesota to raise young Sebastian, only to return to New York for work seven years later. Wally is exactly the same — but once he meets Sebastian and starts spending time with him, the memories of his inebriated scheme start coming back to him and he realizes he may actually be this kid's dad. (Jeff Goldblum, as Wally's boss and sounding board, provides the only worthwhile moments here because he's just so appealingly blase.)
Will Wally tell Kassie the truth? Will Kassie and up with Roland instead? Will there be some embarrassing, ill-timed confession in front of a large group of strangers?
These things don't happen in real life. But they do in contrived romantic comedies.