"Switch" has a premise that is bright and inherently funny -- a reincarnated male chauvinist pig is ordered by God to live life as a woman for awhile.

It's a punishment to fit the crime and a terrific idea for a comedy -- "Heaven Can Wait" meets "Tootsie," if you will.How unfortunate that writer-director Blake Edwards has chosen a path strewn with cheap, vulgar gags instead of the humorous high road paved by those two earlier and much better films. (Even the old, similar Debbie Reynolds comedy "Goodbye, Charlie" is better than this.)

In a cameo, TV miniseries star Perry King plays Steve Brooks, the chauvinist who meets three ex-girlfriends (led by JoBeth Williams) for an evening, unaware that they simply want to kill him.

When they do, Steve finds himself in purgatory, where God tells him he must return to Earth and find one woman who likes him, or it's off to the fires of hell.

But when he is reincarnated, the devil convinces God that Steve should be required to live out this brief return to Earth as a woman. So, while he starts to go to the bathroom, Steve becomes Amanda, played by Ellen Barkin, whose bright and witty performance far outshines the material.

Edwards doesn't miss an opportunity to make every vulgar sex joke he can think of, with lots of gags about the female anatomy, homosexuality, women's clothes -- including a running gag about Amanda unable to walk in high-heels that is way overdone. (Why doesn't she/he just buy a pair of flats?)

Jimmy Smits, as Steve's old drinking buddy who keeps making passes at Amanda; Lorraine Bracco as the gay perfume mogul Amanda attempts to seduce; and Tony Roberts as the lecherous boss of the ad agency where Steve worked are all good in their roles. But it doesn't help.

This is a matter of taste, of course. Some of the audience around me laughed out loud frequently. But I found Edwards' attempts to make chauvinistic jokes while trying to couch them in an anti-chauvinistic motif hypocritical.

And, considering all that has gone before, his attempt to finish the film with a poignant, touching statement about womanhood just rings false.

Edwards used to be funny. But since he discovered that there is an audience for cheap sexual humor with "10," he's taken the easy route instead of trying to come up with clever ideas. For me, he hit rock bottom with "Skin Deep" a couple of years ago, and now, "Switch."

This is rated R, of course, for considerable sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity, as well as violence and drug use.