I am baffled by the generally good reviews this movie has been receiving. Produced by Eli Roth and directed by Daniel Stamm, The Last Exorcism is a tame, PG-13 rated horror film completely lacking in scares and originality. The movie apes everything from the classic '74 Exorcist to the handheld footage of The Blair Witch Project to the cheesy, town-gone-mad of The Wicker Man - not the original one, the crazy-bad remake starring Nicolas Cage. Stamm takes a mockumentary approach to the material, which concerns a con artist preacher (nicely played, with ample amount of humor, by TV vet Patrick Fabian) who performs one last "exorcism" on an isolated farm girl (Ashley Bell). Is the girl really possessed by the devil? Is she just psychotic? For most of its running time, The Last Exorcism does a decent enough job of making the audience question what they're seeing, but the twist ending is ludicrous and abrupt, and leaves the viewer totally unsatisfied. You'll definitely laugh more (intentional or not) than you will scream with this one, and, in the end, if you're like me - you'll just feel cheated out of your time and money.
The Switch (***)
Another romantic comedy centered around artificial insemination? I know, it doesn't sound that good on paper, and the ho-hum preview didn't do anything to instill confidence in anybody. But if there's one truth in Hollywood today, it's this: never underestimate the appeal of a Jason Bateman performance. Since Arrested Development catapulted him back into the spotlight, he's delivered a series of performances that never fail to impress. His comic timing and sarcastic line delivery are assets to any movie, particularly this one where he's the lead. He plays the neurotic Wally, perpetually single best friend to Jennifer Aniston's Kassie, who wants to have a baby. She goes the sperm donor route, and, in a fit of drunken foolishness, Wally replaces the donor's sperm with his own. That's the set-up, and most of the film takes place 7 years later, when Kassie moves back to New York and Wally starts to realize he may have too much in common with her 6 year-old son. Bateman is capably joined by Aniston, who hasn't been this appealing on screen in a while, and the great Jeff Goldblum, stealing every scene in the best friend role. Yes, the typical romantic comedy story beats are here, but the movie goes about them in a relaxed, unforced manner. Bateman and Aniston sparkle - you want their characters to get together. The kid is a bit too precocious, and there's some unfortunate voiceover narration utilized, but, for the most part, The Switch is genial and good-natured, and fairly funny too. This may not be saying much, but it's the best romantic comedy so far this year.