A bit of misplaced sperm puts Jason Bateman in a sticky situation in this clumsy reworking of a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides). Co-star Jennifer Aniston makes it another notch on her bedpost of mediocre rom-coms as a 40-year-old New Yorker who abandons the search for Mr Right and decides to have a child by artificial insemination. Bateman plays her one-time boyfriend, now miserable best friend, who drunkenly spills the goods and replaces it with his own sample. The ensuing complications are about as hilarious as any other low-level sex crime.
Co-helmers Josh Gordon and Will Speck don't just distort the original intention of Eugenides's story, they force it kicking and screaming into a romantic comedy mould. For one thing, Kassie (Aniston) is introduced as a practical woman who knows what she wants, but she also decides to throw a party and invite all her friends to stand by while she is 'basted' with the juices of her hotshot donor (that's Patrick Wilson in a Viking helmet...). It just doesn't wash and neither does the pivotal scene where best friend Wally (Bateman) gets plastered, drops the sperm and makes a quickie substitution.
Clearly, this is a huge violation of trust that threatens to turn off viewers. The underlying problem is that Wally isn't very likeable to begin with. The normally charming Bateman is cast as the depressive type who spends a lot of time wallowing in his own inadequacies, including denying his feelings for Kassie. To get around the problem of his outrageous duplicity, he is lumbered with a case of amnesia, alcohol-induced - drowning his sorrows as Kassie looks set to move on with her life. It's only when she comes back to town after seven years that he recalls the memory, triggered by seeing aspects of himself in the little boy Sebastian (Thomas Robinson).
At this point, the repressed romance between Wally and Kassie takes a backseat to father-son bonding. It's easy to fall in love with Thomas Robinson with his downcast eyes and perpetual pout; it's just a shame dad refuses to grow out of the sulking phase. Wally continues to indulge in moping and self-denial while Kassie sparks up a relationship with the man she believes is Sebastian's father. Though Wilson plays it smug as the alpha male, the reality is, he doesn't look so awful standing next to our wasp-chewing antihero. The only man guaranteed to put a smile on your face is Wally's boss and mentor played by Jeff Goldblum, typically humming and hawing.
The look of the film is as dour as the leading man. It's as if Gordon and Speck are trying to inject some kitchen-sink reality into an otherwise ludicrous plot. Their last film, Blades Of Glory (2007), was a brilliant celebration of silliness, but they aren't well matched to this material. Just as depressing, it appears that Aniston is stuck in a groove of playing neurotic singletons. Frankly, that's less cute at 40-something than it is at 30. Juliette Lewis only just about gets away with it as her flaky gal pal, but (despite having Brad Pitt in common) even that pairing seems ill-founded. The sad truth is, when Wally finally looks into his heart and admits his feelings for Kassie, it's a total anticlimax.
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