The Switch: A 'Post-Freudian' Glance at Child Development

bundled with utterly formulaic rom-com conventions

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Jennifer Aniston's critics have long-complained that she consistently churns out blandly satisfying but unmemorable titles that are neither breakout successes nor outright failures. Her latest release, The Switch, appears set to break this mold. In the film, Aniston plays a single woman  who spontaneously announces that she will have a child through a sperm donor. The plot, which hinges on Jason Bateman inexplicably switching out the sperm sample with his own, has been likened to mix between "Along Came Polly" and a more syrupy title like "About a Boy." The film quickly attracted buzz thanks in large part to Bill O'Reilly who said the film's glorified depiction of single motherhood is "destructive" to society at large. Now that it's in theaters, reviewers are evenly divided between the sharply critical and those intrigued by the premise:

  • Has a Startlingly Post-Freudian, Nature-Trumps-Nurture View of Child Development writes Owen Glieberman at Entertainment Weekly. The most touching parts of the film are when Jason Bateman meets his now seven year old son, Sebastian (played by Thomas Robinson). Sebastian is "so discerning and cautious and fussy, about everything from Peking Duck to indoor rock climbing, that he's like a tiny annoying adult. Whereas Bateman, who often seems like the world's most doleful late-night talk-show host, makes Wally a fellow who can't get his life together because he has never let go of the complaining child within."
  • It Shares Similar Virtues With 'About a Boy' notes Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey. "Between Bateman, the filmmakers, the smart script, and the talented and adorably soulful Robinson, we get a carefully calibrated comic look at male maturation. Sebastian's chip-off-the-old-block angst is just what's needed to crush Wally's commitment issues, and Robinson does an excellent job of it."
  • A Quirkily Observant Film  "viewers expecting yet another film about baby-crazed women" will be pleasantly surprised that the film focuses on Jason Bateman, observes Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post. The film, "to its credit, really is about a boy, who with the help of a sensitive, sad-eyed kid, stands a chance of becoming a man."
  • It's Aniston Who's Impervious To Growth weighs in Wesley Morris at The Boston Globe. The rom-com genre's most visible modern star is plagued by the same performance (typified by "same skeptical stammer and crypto-ditzy insouciance") that she delivers in all of her films. He quips: "For her, loneliness, doubt, fear, sadness, and worry are not emotions. They’re shades of a nail polish her pedicurist isn’t allowed to use."
  • And It's Flaw is Impossible to Ignore grumbles Mick LaSalle at The San Francisco Chronicle. Namely, it hinges, "on the most tired of romantic comedy conventions: Someone knows something, and all that person has to do is say it, and the movie is over and everything's great. But he doesn't say it...So the movie goes on and on, instead of ending, and the more viewers have believed in the characters and their world, the more frustrated they become."
  • Bonus: Bill Simmons Theory on Aniston: ESPN's Sports Guy  gives his two cents about The Switch star during an article ostensibly about why Shaquille O'Neal signed to play for the Boston Celtics: "The Aniston dynamic resembles a great athlete who couldn't win a ring in his prime, but now time is running out and he only has a couple more chances. In sports, we love when this happens!...I say she's much smarter than we think. Unlike with sports, she knows it's better for her career if she never gets that ring. She will continue dating co-stars, bad-boy musicians and people with lousy hair for the foreseeable future. You watch. So feel sorry for Steve Nash, but don't feel sorry for Jennifer Aniston. She's laughing all the way to the bank."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.