24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: The Switch

Child actors, young and all grown up

August 21, 2010 | 12:59 pm

ThomasOn the large billboards plastered all over town promoting this weekend's release of "The Switch," A-listers Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman are touted as the film's main attraction.

But according to many critics, the real star of the romantic comedy is Thomas Robinson, an 8-year-old Valley Village resident who plays Jennifer Aniston's precocious and endearingly neurotic son.

In her review of the film this week, Times critic Betsy Sharkey praised the actor's "excellent job" in the movie, calling him "talented and adorably soulful."

After spending a night observing Thomas during his first big Hollywood movie premiere earlier this week, we can vouch for that. Thomas -- who was only 6 when he filmed "The Switch" -- is about as un-Hollywood as it gets. Too shy to speak to reporters on the red carpet, he timidly posed for pictures and attended the premiere's swanky after-party, where he sat with his family for about an hour before asking his mom if they could go home. (Check out this photo diary of his big night.) What struck us most about him is how much he truly seemed to embody the character he plays in the movie: honest and even a little sad.

Bateman echoed that sentiment: "I don't want to take anything away from his acting talent, but he was similar to that part in his sweetness and kindness and his accessibility," the actor told us in an interview earlier this year.

Of course, Thomas is only one of the young actors who has popped up on the big screen this summer, when it seems there have been a wave of strikingly naturalistic and evocative performances from kids in films like "Ramona and Beezus" and "Flipped."

But just how do casting directors track down the perfect child actor, who is not only cute and talented, but capable of handling the pressure? That's one of the questions we explore in our Sunday Calendar story, in which casting directors, filmmakers and former child stars weigh in on the challenges of working in Hollywood as a youngster. Douglas Aibel, the casting director who found Thomas for "The Switch," said he could sense early on that the young boy was overwhelmed by the audition process.

Continue reading »

Another hangover, this time courtesy of eggnog

August 16, 2010 |  2:12 pm

EXCLUSIVE: If a Las Vegas bachelor party provided a colorful backdrop for the high jinks in "The Hangover," we can only imagine how ably an office holiday party will serve the purpose.

That's the setting for a new comedy being written by "The Hangover" writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore and directed by "Blades of Glory" filmmakers Will Speck and Josh Gordon.

The quartet, who are developing the untitled movie at DreamWorks, plan on looking at one such party that goes horribly awry. It wouldn't be the first time the holidays would be the subject of comedy fodder for Moore and Lucas, who wrote the screwball film "Four Christmases."

The project -- which Scott Stuber, Guymon Cassady and Daniel Rappaport will produce -- not only piles on the filmmaking talent but also provides a nice complement, with the writers excelling in a certain kind of outrageousness and the directors lately showing a flair for the subtle and heartfelt. Speck-Gordon, who direct this weekend's Jennifer Aniston-Jason Bateman parenting dramedy "The Switch," are already picking up heat as the movie generates strong buzz.

Along with "Switch" producers Mandate Pictures, Speck-Gordon are  also developing a new movie with a distinctly Southern California feel -- a "Down & Out in Beverly Hills"-style culture-clash film about a Persian family and an American family that live next door to each other. Speck-Gordon are teaming with Nasim Pedrad, the Iranian American "Saturday Night Live" cast member, who will write the script.

The directors are also connected with Moore-Lucas in a number of ways. Bateman, who just starred in their film, will also star in the upcoming "The Change-Up," which Lucas and Moore penned. And they're united in the way Hollywood likes: box-office clout.

With $119 million in domestic box office, "Blades of Glory" is the fourth-highest-grossing sports comedy of all time, according to Box Office Mojo. And "The Hangover"? It's the most successful R-rated comedy of all time. Let the holiday-party outrageousness begin.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'The Hangover.' Credit: Warner Bros.


'The Switch' directors: We're not sure what Bill O'Reilly is talking about

'The Hangover' isn't any headache for Warner Bros.

Bill O'Reilly slams Jennifer Aniston for no-daddy-needed remarks

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