| The “dog days” of summer are here and the cupboard is apparently bare.
The third movie of the year about artificial insemination, following “The Back-up Plan” and “The Kids Are All Right,” pairs the stars of two popular television shows, Jennifer Aniston (“Friends”) and Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”).
The screenplay by Allan Loeb (“21” and the upcoming “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”) is based on the short story “The Baster” (as in turkey baster) by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides (“Middlesex” and “The Virgin Suicides”). The title change is an attempt to soften the tacky premise of a last-minute substitution of sperm.
The dispute between Aniston and conservative political commentator Bill O’Reilly over single motherhood has spiked awareness of this movie.
Kassie (Aniston) is a smart and attractive single woman with a successful career as a network television producer. Wally (Bateman) is an introspective and slightly neurotic equities analyst. He has trouble, like a lot of men, expressing his feelings. They have been platonic buddies since mutually agreeing to put each other in the “friendship zone” six years ago.
Kassie announces at lunch one day that her fertility chart is on a steep decline. With her biological clock ticking, she decides that she doesn’t need a man in her life to have a baby. “I’m in the market for some semen,” she says. The blunt and always truthful Wally offers to be the sperm donor. Kassie turns him down preferring someone with a sense of humor rather than the self-absorbed, pessimistic and neurotic traits in Wally’s gene pool.
Kassie’s wacky and likable girlfriend Debbie (Juliette Lewis) throws an “insemination party.” The selected donor, Roland (Patrick Wilson), attends with his wife. He retreats to the bathroom and leaves a fresh specimen for Kassie to do the deed. Wally pops some pills and gets drunk at the gala event. After relieving himself, he plays with the very important container and inadvertently spills the ingredients in the sink. He replaces the contents with his own seed and forgets to tell Kassie.
He claims to have temporary amnesia with no memory of hijacking Kassie’s pregnancy when confiding in his wry co-worker Leonard (Jeff Goldblum). Kassie gets pregnant and decides to move back to her hometown in Minnesota to raise her child with the help of her parents. This ends the bedraggled first half of the film.
The movie starts up again seven years later. Kassie moves back to New York City having taken a job with ABC. Wally and Kassie have not aged a day. She introduces Wally to her very sensitive and precocious son Sebastian (newcomer Thomas Robinson). Wally bonds with the undeniably adorable kid. A sense of “been there, done that” déjà vu comes over him as he recognizes his own distinguishable traits in this young lad.
Wally’s memory of that fateful night when he made the switch slowly returns. He hesitates telling Kassie the truth when a simple paternity test could resolve the matter. A further complication ensues when Kassie starts dating a newly divorced Patrick.
The creepy story revolving around an unauthorized bodily invasion with a permanent effect is an immediate turnoff. The movie generates little excitement or emotion. It flatlines as both a comedy and a romance. You instead get a serious dramatic downer.
There are some corny voice-over narrations provided by Bateman’s character. Three birthday parties and the “I’m getting pregnant” celebration pad the running time of 101 minutes.
Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (“Blades of Glory”) utilize the Manhattan setting with nice exterior shots featuring Central Park, Grand Central Station and the congested sidewalks. Aniston just fills up space and is merely a drawing card atop the marquee. Bateman isn’t given an opportunity to show off his comedic versatility. His interactions with the boy are the most convincing and provide the best chemistry. Cute-as-a-button Robinson is the only saving grace of the movie, stealing every scene that he appears in. He almost salvages this wreck that fails to pass muster and should have gone straight to the DVD shelves.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"