When it was originally supposed to be released last year, the movie was called Fast Track. Six months of delay and a name change later The Ex is finally hitting theaters. If The Weinstein Company was using that extra time to make the movie better, it wasn’t worth the effort. The Ex is an unmitigated disaster and it’s frustrating because the cast should make it brilliant. When I saw Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, and Jason Bateman’s name on the poster I knew this was a movie I had to see. These people do not suck. Will at least they didn’t until now.
Braff and Peet play a happily married couple with absolutely no chemistry. When they sit in bed together talking about their impending baby, it’s like two completely asexual strangers forced to share a hotel room together. They just don’t look right together. There’s not a moment in the film where I believed Amanda Peet’s spunky housewife character Sofia would ever agree to have sex with a sloppy loser like Braff’s Tom Reilly, let alone marry him and father his children. I’m not sure director Jesse Peretz ever buys into it either, so he fills most of their scenes together, even the ones that are supposed to be sappy and sweet, with this bizarrely whimsical, tooty fruity music that sounds like it was lifted from a chase scene in a talking dog movie.
Anyway, the Reilly’s are having a baby and as a couple they come together and decide it’s about freakin time Tom grew up and started acting like a man. So, as his first act as a grown ass man, Tom takes a job he’s not qualified for from his wife’s daddy. Because nothing says responsible adult like mooching off your in-laws, right?
Speaking of dog movies, Tom’s father in-law is played by Charles Grodin. He looks uncomfortable without a furry four footed friend hanging around with him. Or maybe that’s anger, not discomfort. Either way, he doesn’t look like he wanted to be the movie, and when you’re Charles Grodin, star of Beethoven, Beethoven’s 2nd, and Clifford that’s really saying something.
The film at first pretends to be about an irresponsible man-child getting his act together and getting on some sort of unearned career track to support his family. Except once Tom shows up to work, he meets Chip (Jason Bateman), a conniving, wheel-chair confined, ex-boyfriend of his wife’s. That’s when The Ex morphs into the story of two guys competing over the same woman, as the driven and mentally disturbed Chip uses his handicap to screw over Tom and try to steal away his wife. Chip has grand visions of running off to Italy with Sofia and living a life of romance and expensive wine. What he plans to do with Sofia’s baby if he succeeds is unclear, but the way he looks at it seems to suggest that a dumpster on the way to the airport is not out of the question.
The Ex attempts to tackle the same difficult and meaningful themes that you’ll all see handled wonderfully later this summer in Knocked Up, but where Knocked Up handles them with wit, charm, and insight The Ex throws them down a flight of stairs and then waits for it all to hit the bottom and see if anything survives. Nothing does. Ultimately, The Ex can’t figure out what it wants to be or even if there’s enough story here to make an entire movie out of. By the end of its brisk 89 minute running time the movie feels like it’s running out of ideas, and they start inserting random, out of place, cliché scenes stolen from other movies to pad the clock and make it long enough to justify the price of a ticket purchase. I’m frankly shocked that Braff and Peet have agreed to go out and do publicity for this stinker. They have to realize how bad it is, the best thing that could happen for them is for absolutely no one to see it. It’s not their fault and the film is well intentioned, but it's also a mess, a complete and total disaster. Everything that can go wrong with a comedy like this does. The script is simply godawful, and the guys who edited and directed it seem to have gone out of their way to make it even godawfuler; which, while it may not be a word, fits pretty well here.