Theatrical Review: Jesse Peretz
's stitched-together comedy The Ex casts funny actors and provides funny scenarios but rarely matches talent to task. The movie, penned by David Guion and Michael Handelman, trades a traceable story arc for a series of maniacal sketches that can be crudely amusing -- as when a non-paralyzed man tried to impress his handicapped co-worker by joining him in a wheelchair basketball game -- but lend nothing to the movie as a whole. Thankfully, the film's bouncy pace means missed jokes spring to safety instead of stopping the momentum with a thud.
New parents Tom (Zach Braff
) and Sophia (Amanda Peet
) are proverbially chewed up by New York City and spit out to Ohio where perennial job hopper Tom takes a position at his father-in-law's ad agency. While Sophia copes with being a stay-at-home mom, Tom finds friendly -- then fierce -- office competition with Chip (Jason Bateman
), an account executive and former flame of Sophia's who earns sympathy from the world because he is confined to a wheelchair. Article continues below
Peretz wisely stocks his supporting cast with improvisational veterans on loan from Saturday Night Live (Amy Poehler
, Fred Armisen
) or recent Judd Apatow
movies (Paul Rudd
, Romany Malco
). Charles Grodin
and Mia Farrow
are oddly cast as Sophia's parents, and Grodin blows the dust off his droll chops for an amusing part. But stacking the overall casting deck isn't the same thing as pulling a royal flush, and the script scrimps on delivering killer dialogue for these capable comedians. One or two get a decent line. Others drift about aimlessly, wasted by Peretz and team.
The focus, instead, falls to the main event tussle between Tom and Chip. Bateman hilariously holds the upper hand on an amiable Braff (who is falling into a dangerous rut of on-screen humiliation), but the script once again can not explain why Chip resents Tom as much as he does. He liked Sophia years ago but clearly didn't abstain from having relations with women when she moved away (a running joke in the movie pertains to Chip's prowess in the bedroom). And he shouldn't fear Tom at work, where he clearly is the golden child in the boss's eyes.
No, The Ex sees no need for reason so long as Braff is willing to tread water both on the job and at home with his lady until Peretz stages the next mortification at his Ex-pense.