The Ex

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This review was written for the theatrical release of "The Ex."

Originally slated to arrive in January -- when it was called "Fast Track" -- and then again in March before finally hitting theaters May 11, "The Ex" might have a new title and a firm release date, but it has the same old problem.

For a comedy, it's not really funny.

Considering a cast including Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow and, especially, Jason Bateman in a terrific character turn, and a workable ad company setting, all the necessary ingredients were in place for something much more amusing.

But every time director Jesse Peretz ("The Chateau") and scripters David Guion and Michael Handelman actually threaten to achieve some sort of comic traction, the energy goes slack again, adhering to the law of diminishing returns with each subsequent setup.

Speaking of returns, it's a good bet this Weinstein Co. presentation will swiftly turn into an ex-theatrical proposition, finding itself on the fast track to DVD.

Braff is in amiable underdog mode as Tom Reilly, a new dad who loses his job as a chef the same day his lawyer wife, Sofia (Peet), has given birth to their son.

With Sofia out of bread-winning commission for a while, Tom swallows his pride and moves the family to Ohio, where his father-in-law (Grodin) has an entry-level job lined up for him at his advertising agency.

Adding to Tom's discomfort is the fact that he'll be working directly under Chip Sanders (Bateman), a sanctimonious jerk in a wheelchair who uses his handicap as an excuse for bad behavior. He also makes it quite clear that he wouldn't mind picking up romantically with Sofia where they left off back in high school.

The inevitable showdown takes place but barely limps past the finish line.

There's a promising "Flirting With Disaster"-meets-"Office Space" vibe to "The Ex," which likely was Peretz's intent, but without any kind of discernible pace or buildup, it can't help but sit in one place.

Most of the cast feels similarly underused with the exception of Bateman, who wheels off with what laughs there are to be had. He manages to push the good-taste envelope as the resident nemesis but not at the expense of his character's physical limitations, so it's never about poking fun at a guy in a wheelchair.

The Farrelly brothers would have been impressed.

THE EX
MGM
The Weinstein Co. and 2929 Prods.
Credits:
Director: Jesse Peretz
Screenwriters: David Guion, Michael Handelman
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Anne Carey, Ted Hope
Executive producers: Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Marc Butan, Ray Angelic
Director of photography: Tom Richmond
Production designer: John Paino
Music: Ed Shearmur
Co-producer: Couper Samuelson
Costume designer: John Dunn
Editor: Tricia Cooke
Cast:
Tom Reilly: Zach Braff
Sofia Kowalski: Amanda Peet
Chip Sanders: Jason Bateman, Bob Kowalski: Charles Grodin
Amelia Kowalski: Mia Farrow
Wesley: Lucian Maisel
Don Wollebin: Donal Logue
Carol Lane: Amy Poehler
Running time -- 89 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

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