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Originally published Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 3:00 PM

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Movie review

'The Switch': a half-baked rom-com starring Aniston, Bateman and a turkey baster

"The Switch" stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, making a noble effort to bring genuine romance and comedy to this half-baked formula rom-com that's contrived from a mix-up about artificial insemination.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

'The Switch,' with Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson, Thomas Robinson. Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, from a screenplay by Allan Loeb. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language. Several theaters.

The turkey baster has had a good year in the movies. "The Back-up Plan" and "The Kids Are All Right" both involved figurative references to its use as a vehicle for artificial insemination. With "The Switch," the utensil gets a juicier squirt of celebrity by making an on-screen appearance. It also bears literal inspiration for the script, based on a charming 1996 short story by Jeffrey Eugenides titled "Baster."

Unfortunately, this latest ho-hum rom-com from Hollywood's industrial commissary comes out half-baked despite noble efforts by two undeniably likable stars who try to rescue it from mediocrity.

Pulling the stops on her well-honed comic skill, Jennifer Aniston plays Kassie, a smokin'-hot, 40-year-old wannabe baby mama looking to quell the ticking of her biological clock. Jason Bateman is Wally, the depressive, nerdy ex-boyfriend (and intermittently maudlin narrator) who'd like to provide Kassie with sperm the old-fashioned way. But he's been relegated to the "friend zone," therefore an unacceptable candidate to be the nonanonymous donor Kassie seeks and with whom she might someday want her child to interact.

That honor goes to a blandly affable supplier recruited from Craigslist (Patrick Wilson), who leaves his offering in the bathroom during Kassie's pregnancy party. The idea is she'll self-administer when everyone leaves. But a drunken Wally discovers the receptacle, thereby providing the movie its title.

After seven years apart — Kassie has spent the first rearing years in Minnesota — she returns to New York with a depressive, nerdy son named Sebastian (a sullen, adorable Thomas Robinson), who strikes up an unusually close connection with Wally. Sensing the bond, Wally's memory of the switch gets unrepressed with a little help from his best friend (a wonderfully sly Jeff Goldblum) and he takes the big risk of getting honest with Kassie — about everything.

There's never a doubt how the entanglements will straighten out, especially when the score swells with emo-pop songs and montages that spell out every mawkish feeling. Aniston and Bateman show glimpses of genuine chemistry, but the general infusion of synthetic emotion is a flavorless concoction in dire need of more basting.

Ted Fry: tedfry@hotmail.com

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