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The Ex (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 13, 2022

The Ex

The Ex

THE EX (2007)

Starring Zach Braff, Jason Bateman, Amanda Peet, Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow, Lucien Maisel, Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler, Donal Logue, Amy Adams, Bob Stephenson, Yaffit Hallely Josh Charles, Marin Hinkle, Robert John Burke, Paul Rudd and Romany Malco.

Screenplay by David Guion and Michael Handelman.

Directed by Jesse Peretz.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company.  90 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

As a comic actor, Zach Braff probably has built up enough good will that we will forgive him for the occasional missteps like The Ex.  Years on TV as the eccentrically ironic doc of Scrubs have given him a “Get Out of Crappy Film Free” card.  He’s also upped that stature in the movies, where he offered the supremely assured Garden State and the interesting-if-ultimately-a-slight-misfire The Last Kiss.

This script does seem to be squandering Braff’s eccentric comic skills.  The story actually screams out that it was probably written for Ben Stiller as the fantasy lead.  I could see Owen Wilson, or Will Ferrell pulling it off, too.  However, if Braff wants to keep the hipster buzz he has going, he best not be trolling in the pond of Stiller, Ferrell and Wilson cast-offs.

In fact, there is a whole cast of fantastic actors who seem rather let down by their limp material.  Why, for example, would the completely brilliant comic mind of Charles Grodin choose this as the vehicle to end his self-imposed exile from the movies – his first film role since 1994?

Amanda Peet is beautiful and a wonderful comic actress, however she does have enough bad comedies on her résumé (Whipped, Saving Silverman, A Lot Like Love, The Whole Ten Yards, etc.) that you can’t completely be surprised that she is doing it again. 

But what about Jason Bateman, who has just rebuilt his standing in Hollywood as the wonderful straight man of three seasons of Arrested Development?  Even though it was the third-billed role in a major motion picture, is The Ex really in the best interest of his career? 

Perhaps the biggest crime of this sort is forcing Amy Adams to follow-up her deservedly Oscar-nominated work in Junebug in a small role as a clichéd, annoying and deluded “mommy and me” leader.

It’s a shame, because The Ex actually does have at its root a rather good and subversive black comic idea for these overly politically correct times.  What would happen if a handicapped person is a completely passive-aggressive asshole?  Do you sit back and take it or fight back – at risk of looking like a bully to the rest of the world, which seems to be snowed by his sad-sack act?

Braff plays Tom Reilly, a New Yorker with a beautiful wife named Sofia (Peet) and a newborn baby.  After he loses the latest of a series of jobs, the couple decide to leave Manhattan to move to her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where Tom will take a job with her father (Grodin).  Once he gets there, he finds that his new boss is Chip, a high-school friend of Sofia’s who has been paralyzed from the waist down since childhood.  Tom quickly realizes that Chip never got over Sofia, leading to a tug-of-war for power in the business, for favor with Sofia’s father and mother (Mia Farrow) and ultimately for Sofia’s love.

The Ex is not exactly an accurate title, since it appears that Chip and Sofia had a one-night stand which he has been obsessing about ever since.  Then again, it probably works better than the original title, Fast Track, since the movie endured a series of release delays before finally getting slipped into theaters with very little fanfare.

There isn’t a lot of suspense in the story.  No matter how angry she gets at his antics, Sofia never seems to be falling out of love with her husband, nor does she seem to warm up particularly to the oily Chip.

However, if you want to see lots of pratfalls, Braff flipping a bike head-over-heels over a parked car and a little kid swallowing a hamburger in one bite, you’re in the right place.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2007  All rights reserved.  Posted: August 18, 2007.

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