Go ahead, pick on Aniston

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010

Picking on Jennifer Aniston feels kind of like poking fun at some kid who just got beat up by a bully on the playground. You feel like a jerk for doing it. Why, after all, would you want to make that little kid feel worse? He just skinned his knee for crying out loud! With Aniston, who is on the cover of at least one magazine in the checkout aisle at the grocery store without fail, it has somehow become the norm to feel sorry for her. She is not on the covers of those magazines because of Oscar buzz or because her current movie is atop the box office.

She is a cover girl because Brangelina did her wrong. When Brad Pitt decided to trade in Aniston for Angelina Jolie (there is a reason their chemistry was so good in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"), Aniston became the object of America's sympathy. Do not underestimate that sympathy, either. It has apparently given her a perma-free pass to remain on the A-list despite her growing list of awful movies.

That list now includes "The Switch."

One thing I can say for this current Aniston vehicle is that writing about it is easy. The plot is simple (and if you have seen a preview then you are all set): Kassie (Aniston) is single and her biological clock is ticking - sound familiar? Naturally, she decides she will simply have a baby without dealing with finding a suitable man other than using his, ah, seed. Her best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman), does not like the idea, mostly because he is in love with Kassie. At the party where Kassie is to do the deed, Wally gets wasted and mid-blackout switches the donor's (Patrick Wilson) sample with his own.

Seven years later, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) is the walking, talking result of Wally's drunken stunt. Wally figures out quickly that Sebastian is his (they both unwittingly hum with pleasure when they eat) and simultaneously finds himself in competition for Kassie with the thought-to-be-donor, Roland. The drill is familiar: Wally wants to tell Kassie the truth, but he cannot for fear of losing her. Kassie starts to get serious with Roland, but Sebastian likes and is much more like Wally. Wally finally fesses up at the worst possible moment and gets slapped across the face for his trouble.

Finally, mercifully, it winds up being happily ever after. There are no surprises in the story. With rom-coms that is not necessarily a deal breaker.

"The Switch," though, is rarely funny. Aniston is playing the same character she usually does (herself), Jeff Goldblum acts like he usually does (rambling incoherently) as Bateman's pal, and Bateman himself was apparently going for really, really annoying. Wally is certainly neurotic; he is so neurotic, however, that he has sapped Bateman of his usual humor. Calling this film a "rom-com" is an insult to the genre I am so fond of. Somewhere, if he's seen this movie yet, Freddie Prinze Jr. is rightfully disgusted.

The kid is good. Thomas Robinson. He is good. His neuroticism is less annoying and funnier than Bateman's. Robinson's initial appearance as Sebastian provides momentary hope for "The Switch," but it does not last.

Sometimes, that kid getting bullied on the playground probably deserves to be made fun of (hang out with the lunch lady or something, kid!). At some point, Aniston's perma-free pass has to expire. I vote that once the Brangelina clan reaches double-digits, we agree it is time to move on from feeling bad for Aniston.

That's just me.

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