The Ex (Unrated Widescreen Edition)

After the massive successes of Garden State and Scrubs, Zach Braff became a household name. Studio execs deemed him officially capable of headlining a movie, but apparently he just can’t do it successfully. The Ex only took in a meager $3 million at the US Box office, and that’s with costars like Amanda Peet (Saving Silverman, Something’s Gotta Give) and Jason Bateman (Arrested Development). Not to mention a supporting cast that includes Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow, Donal Logue, Amy Poehler, Amy Adams, Fred Armisen, and an unmentioned Paul Rudd cameo. The film was released theatrically on May 11th, and now only three months later (August 21st), it’s already making its DVD appearance. Even in our 21st century, fast-paced world, that’s quick turnaround. With a track record like that, audience expectations can be set pretty low.

What’s interesting, though, is that The Ex doesn’t live down to low expectations. It’s got a solid cast, a solid story, and some pretty decent comedy gags. The three leads (Braff, Peet, and Bateman) are all known for superb comedic timing and deliver in every scene. Braff and Peet connect as a believable couple, the plot never feels stagnant or unoriginal, and the laugh out loud moments just seem to keep coming. Paul Rudd appears early on in a hilarious cameo as Braff’s peevish boss, and the tone is set for the movie to take off. Charles Grodin, best known as the father in the Beethoven movies, makes a triumphant return to the screen after a decade-long hiatus. For the next hour or so, comedy fans will be wallowing in the heaven of unexpected laughs and outrageous gags as Bateman, Braff, and Peet expertly deliver the comic goods.  The film seems to be heading for an equally clever finale when suddenly everything is derailed: the comedy train breaks down and the story is lost… so what happened? 

Here’s a quick plot breakdown: Braff is a chef. Peet is a lawyer. They’re married. They live in New York. Peet is pregnant. Braff gets fired. They move back to Ohio where he works for her dad’s ad agency. He discovers that his coworker (Bateman) is obsessed with his wife and trying to sabotage his job. He fights back. Hilarity ensues. Curtain.

Not exactly the easiest story to market. The trailers make the film out to look like a slaphappy husband vs. ex-boyfriend in a wheelchair comedy mash. Unfunny clips that don’t appear in the movie are thrown in, entire scenes are played out, and yet the audience still isn’t sure what they’re going to see. To be fair to promoters, The Ex doesn’t exactly lend itself to easy marketing.  And it seems like the producers may have realized this 3/4ths of the way through production. After about 70 minutes, the story suddenly hits fast forward and everything happens at once, ending the movie at a mere 80 minutes, and leaving the audience feeling like they got treated to the quickest wrap up in film history. The three alternate endings, alternate opening, and slew of deleted scenes included on the disc speak volumes to the way this film must have been picked over and processed by the studio. The opening scenes are poorly filmed and almost feel like a different film and the same can be said for the finale. But the hour or so in between is built entirely in the world of hilarious light romantic comedy.

In all the bloopers, and even on IMDB, the film is still listed as Fast Track. And it seems that this project got fast tracked off the studio lot and into theatres before director Jesse Peretz, former bassist for The Lemonheads, was ready to let it go. Then again, maybe he never had much interest in the film to begin with, or maybe writing team David Guion and Michael Handelman didn’t give him enough to work with. As the Tootsie Roll Pop commercial states: “The World May Never Know.” Whatever the case, The Ex is a clear example of a first-rate comedy getting pounded down into a quick mindless 80 minute studio writeoff. For audiences looking for 80 minutes of light-hearted, surprisingly delightful, comfortably off-color comedy, look no further. Just don’t expect the beginning, middle, and end to connect.

To view the trailer for The Ex, visit Youtube
To purchase The Ex on DVD, visit Amazon

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