The Switch - Catholic Courier

The Switch

By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) — Though it showcases some of the tangled emotional complications brought about by severing conception from its divinely intended source and setting, the bond of marital love, "The Switch" (Miramax) — a frequently distasteful comedy of modern manners — fails to reach the moral conclusions its own plot should make obvious.

Instead, co-directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon’s adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ 1996 short story "Baster" takes as a given of contemporary life its heroine’s right to engineer such a rupture.

As played by Jennifer Aniston, that heroine — a seemingly successful but unfulfilled New York career woman in her early 40s named Kassie — decides she can’t "wait around" for the arrival of Mr. Right in her life. So she settles on a plan to conceive by artificial insemination. When she announces this scheme to her platonic best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman), whose own professional achievements are offset by numerous neuroses, he timidly expresses reservations.

Wally’s discomfiture is increased when he realizes that — far from selecting him as her donor of choice, as he initially imagined — Kassie is out to enlist his help in her search for a genetic paragon. Though a quarrel between the two prevents Wally from participating in the quest, Kassie eventually sends him an invitation to the "insemination party" that her best female pal, Debbie (Juliette Lewis), is throwing for her.

This occasion provides the context for some of the film’s most debased moments, foreshadowed by a sight gag of multicolored confetti in an apropos shape. After meeting Roland (Patrick Wilson) — the man of the hour, so to speak — Wally gets resentfully drunk and locks himself in the bathroom where the container holding Roland’s "contribution" sits on a warming device normally used for mugs of coffee or tea.

Moments later, Wally spills this substance down the sink. In a panic, he makes a substitution. By the next morning, however, the effects of liquor have completely obliterated this part of the evening from Wally’s memory.

Flash forward seven years and Kassie — who moved back to her native Minnesota soon after informing Wally that she had indeed become pregnant — returns to Gotham with son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) in tow, and reconnects with her old confidant. Struck by the many parallels between his personality and the lad’s, Wally gradually reconstructs the truth of Sebastian’s paternity.

Lost in all of this moral confusion are touching scenes of paternal love and a fine comic turn by Jeff Goldblum as Leonard, Wally’s perpetually flustered business partner. But neither the emotional maturity Wally is shown to acquire through his affectionate response to Sebastian’s plight nor the belatedly acceptable wrap-up can compensate for the pass Allan Loeb’s script has already given to Kassie’s misguided pursuit of parenthood.

The film contains a benign view of artificial insemination, off-screen masturbation, rear and blurred frontal nudity, much sexual humor, at least one use of the S-word and some crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.

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