Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.
Release Date: May 11th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Jesse Peretz Actors: Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, Jason Bateman, Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow, Lucian Maisel, Donal Logue, Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Marin Hinkle, Yafit Hallely, Paul Rudd, Amy Adams
musing bits of comedy daub the relatively unoriginal “The Ex” (formerly titled “Fast Track”), which marks director Jesse Peretz’ first real Hollywood outing in years (he previously helmed “The Chateau” in 2001). Aspiring comedian Zach Braff portrays a just-shy-of-likeable character that is surrounded by slapstick circumstances and eccentric personas, further adding to the hit-or-miss success formula of the production. While the film manages to entertain with a few outrageous gags and a handful of peculiar character designs, the lack of a fresh storyline or a skewed sense of humor results in an overwhelmingly mediocre product.
Tom Reilly (Zach Braff), happily married to Sofia (Amanda Peet), is about to become a father. But the day Sofia gives birth, Zach is fired from his work as a chef. Having a trend of being unable to hold down a job, he convinces Sofia to move to Ohio, where he can finally accept an offer from her father Bob (Charles Grodin). Immediately upon being brought aboard, Tom meets Chip Sanders (Jason Bateman), a man who knew Sofia during college. A rivalry rapidly initiates, with the two combatants struggling to outdo one another at work, frame each other for various screw-ups, and vie for the attention of both Sofia and Bob.
Has Hollywood completely lost its ability to devise an original story? It would seem so, as the peripherally titled “The Ex” (written by David Guion and Michael Handelman) is a confirmation of the unimaginative muck that is continually churned out. With its banal plot, the circumstances that befall the hero all seem unusually commonplace or excessively contrived. As each scene unfolds, audiences will be reminded of a similar happening in a different film; it’s as if “The Ex” is composed of stolen tidbits from a dozen other, better movies. While some of the jokes and antics are marginally humorous, even the slapstick feels recycled.
Although most of the cast is incredibly eccentric and individualistic, this quality tends to annoy half of the time and allow for total predictability during the rest. Progressing like clockwork, each of the players falls into place, going through generic motions and patterns straight to the guessable finale. Adding to that flavorlessness is mediocre performances all around. Braff seems uncomfortable in his role, with his lines containing evident uncertainty. The script doesn’t give anyone much room to shine, but Zach in particular seems like he’d rather be somewhere else. Whether or not the role was written with him in mind, he simply doesn’t fit. It’s a bad sign when the supporting actors are more entertaining than the leads; here, the surrounding characters create a longer lasting impression, though generally only because of their incorrigible annoyingness.
The funniest sequences in the film arrive in the form of utterly irrelevant slapstick, or abrupt out-of-nowhere asides that don’t tie into the story in any way. They are last-minute, add-on segments, stuffed into the running time solely for extra laughs. And because of this dependence on extraneous fabrications, the PG-13 atmosphere cripples the picture. The jokes are stunted and underdeveloped; though they needn’t be repulsive or raunchy, they suffer from the restrictive concern for keeping the subject matter immoderately appropriate. By the end of all this mediocrity, fans of Zach Braff might be entertained, but only due to his presence – not because of his comedic prowess.
– Mike Massie