|The Ex (2007)
Peet, Jason Bateman, Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow, Donal Logue,
Amy Poehler, Amy Adams
Director: Jesse Peretz
Pushed from its release date three times in as many months and forced to undergo last-minute reshoots, the Jesse Peretz comedy formerly known as “Fast Track” hasn’t exactly had the easiest time on its way to theaters. Given a marketing makeover after the filmmakers realized the name had nothing to do with the actual movie, “Fast Track” was repackaged under the even more dubious title of “The Ex” and slated for a mid-May release, one week after the opening of “Spider-Man 3.” Upon screening the film, it seems the crackpot marketing team has done it yet again: not only is the new title just as inappropriate, but it seems the Weinsteins have officially given up hope on what could have been an interesting addition to the winter movie season.
The film stars Zach Braff as Tom Reilly, a thirtysomething underachiever with only one goal in life: to provide for his beautiful wife, Sofia (Amanda Peet), and their new baby boy. But when Tom loses his job after a fight with his boss (Paul Rudd), the couple decides to pack it up and head to suburban Ohio, where Sofia’s dad (Charles Grodin) has a job waiting at his new age ad agency, Sunburst. It’s here that Tom finds himself under the authority of Sofia’s paraplegic high school pal Chip Sanders (Jason Bateman), a closet sociopath out to sabotage Tom and steal all the workplace glory (and possibly his wife) in the process.
Juggling between the slapstick humor of “Scrubs” and the eccentric stylings of “Arrested Development,” “The Ex” manages to dole out the comedy without striking too low below the belt. The first 20 minutes of the film features more than its share of laugh-out-loud moments, and though the second half stumbles into all-too-familiar territory (with the inevitable showdown between Braff and Bateman’s characters a la “The Cable Guy”), it’s still an impressive showing from first-time writers David Guion and Michael Handelman. Of course, they get a lot of help from their cast of small screen superstars (who just so happen to be the driving force behind the film’s respective influences), as well as B-movie character actors like Grodin (in his first role in 13 years), Mia Farrow (looking remarkably creepier by the day), Donal Logue and Amy Poehler. Paul Rudd and Romany Malco (from Peretz’s debut film, “The Chateau”) also dial in memorable cameos as a swank restaurant owner and anesthesiologist, respectively.
Ostensibly written with the Ben Stiller-type in mind, Braff does a commendable job of filling in. His performance is not only reminiscent of his weekly role on “Scrubs,” but it’s also the best part about the movie, further proving that while the actor may enjoy playing the sad sack grownup in films like “Garden State” and “The Last Kiss,” he’s much better suited for material like this. Bateman has his moments as well, but they’re few and far between what you’d expect from an actor of his caliber, especially considering that the character he plays would be far more appropriate in a dark comedy. Still, while both actors made guest appearances on each other’s comedy series, it’s nice to see the two finally get together for a proper collaboration. The final product may not be the perfect formula, but it’s certainly a winning one, making “The Ex” one of the first guilty pleasures of the summer season.
If the theatrical release was any indication of how badly the Weinstein Company screwed up “The Ex,” the single-disc DVD release is the final nail in the coffin. Featuring all the generic extras you’re bound to find on a DVD these days – including a handful of unspectacular deleted scenes, an alternate opening, alternate endings, and a short blooper reel – the average viewer can speed through the proceedings in well under half an hour.