Originally titled The Baster after the Jeffrey Eugenides story it adapts, The Switch is accidentally 2010’s most meta movie. It shares a basic premise with its source, in which an aging single woman’s ex-boyfriend-turned-pal substitutes his own semen for her sperm donor’s. But the other half of its DNA belongs to the blandest of romantic comedies, the sort that pair two likeable stars, a thin gimmick, and hope that chemistry compensates for a toothless script. It’s the bastard child of a thousand Made Of Honors.
Turns out it’s hard to make one man swapping his sperm for another’s seem cute, as much as The Switch tries. Bateman plays a smitten tagalong to Jennifer Aniston, a perpetually single New York TV producer who decides that being alone shouldn’t get in the way of having a child. After hiring a smart, handsome stranger (Patrick Wilson) to donate some sperm—an event celebrated at an insemination party—Aniston gets pregnant, unaware that Bateman has washed Wilson’s seed down the drain and provided his own. (Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the team behind Blades Of Glory, soften the moment by making him outrageously drunk and tripping on some herbal drug provided by Aniston’s best friend, Juliette Lewis.) Flash forward seven years: Aniston has left New York, then returned with a child in tow who’s inherited Bateman’s looks and abundant neuroses.
Bateman deserves some credit for almost making his character work, playing him as a man almost charmingly honest about the terror and insecurity that plague him. In one inspired scene that finds him on a blind date, hoping to forget Aniston, he turns a joke about the future he’ll share with his new companion from a winning bit of self-deprecation into a dark fantasia of alienation and Internet pornography. Trouble is, his palpable glumness—and the deception at the movie’s core—don’t really have a place in the candy-colored romantic-fantasy world where The Switch insists on staying. (The arrival of the adorably miserable tyke in the second half doesn’t help much, either.) A mixture of two species never meant to breed, it’s a film with no world to call its own.