The Ex Jesse Peretz

The Ex Jesse Peretz
After a disappointing turn in last year’s whiny drama Last Kiss, and the most unfavourable season of Scrubs yet, it appears that Zach Braff’s stock is quickly plummeting. Sure, he wooed many with his directorial debut, Garden State, but that was three years ago and everyone’s favourite zany, daydreaming doc is in need of a hit. Unfortunately, The Ex is not that hit.

Braff stars as Tom, a married man who loses his job as a Manhattan chef and is forced to accept an advertising position with his father-in-law (Charles Grodin) in Ohio to make ends meet after wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) gives birth. However, the agency isn’t very traditional; Tom finds himself sinking into its new age methods, and then there’s his mentor Chip (Jason Bateman), a wheelchair-bound schemer who just so happens to be Sofia’s high school flame, who’s still holding his torch for her high. As a result, Tom quickly finds his job at risk, as well as his marriage, with Chip doing his best to create a divide and Tom’s ineptness causing plenty of damage.

Former Lemonheads bassist and renowned music video director Jesse Peretz has assembled an extraordinary cast (which includes a flaky Mia Farrow and SNL’s Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen) for his third feature and there are definitely some shining moments that will have everyone laughing. However, The Ex is uncertain of just what kind of comedy it wants to be. There are plenty of black comedic moments (Bateman’s malicious handicapped villain is rife with discomforting hilarity), as well as far too many slapstick bits, but reducing the film to moments of straight-faced sentimentality and seriousness (mostly between Tom and Sofi) raises quite a few red flags as far as evenness is concerned.

There was plenty to work with, in terms of story, but writers David Guion and Michael Handelman were too busy trying to please different tastes for the sake of a PG rating. Had they left it as a straight, mean-spirited R-rated comedy this film could have been something special. As for Braff, well, he should be clinging onto that sizeable raise NBC gave him for his sitcom, because while films like The Ex give him room to show his comic chops, they don’t exactly flaunt the potential people have been waiting for him to demonstrate over the last few years. (Alliance Atlantis)