It's inevitable for fans of certain actors to eagerly await their next project. Unfortunately, that philosophy can sometimes lead to disappointment when an actor's performance turns out to be identical to earlier efforts. Zach Braff is quickly gaining a following based on his roles in Scrubs and Garden State, but his portrayal in The Ex is pretty much the same as his other roles. Luckily for filmgoers, the rest of the cast brings their A-game, especially Arrested Development graduate Jason Bateman.
Tom Reilly (Braff) has it pretty good. His wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) is about to have a baby and he's in line for a promotion at work. Unluckily, Tom's talent for detecting bullshit and inability to let things go quickly land him in the one place he doesn't need to be: the unemployment line. In search of a fresh start, Tom and Sofia move back to her Ohio hometown so he can work in advertising with Sofia's father (Charles Grodin). The task of showing Tom the ropes falls upon the wheelchair-bound Chip (Jason Bateman), who seems to have his sights set on Sofia.
Filmed from a screenplay by first-timers David Guion and Michael Handelman, The Ex is basically two movies stitched together into one. The first is about the relationship between Tom and his wife, and features people making rational decisions and talking things out. The other is about Tom's rivalry with Chip, and features Braff throwing a handicapped man down a flight of stairs and jokes revolving around Bateman's (apparently) gargantuan penis. It's easy to see which movie people might actually be interested in watching, but unfortunately only the first part is given enough screen time to matter. This results in a movie entirely driven by non-existent conflict, which quickly disappears when the characters actually discuss things.
Despite the illogical writing, the acting is fine. While Braff and Peet stick to playing the same stock characters they always do, Bateman is uproarious while playing against type as Braff's rival. In his first role in 13 years, Charles Grodin harkens back to his days as the high-strung father in the Beethoven films, but never quite hits the same intensity level. Donal Logue steals scenes as the New Agey boss of the advertising agency, while recent Oscar nominee Amy Adams makes a brief appearance as the leader of a baby yoga group.
The first major feature-length from veteran music video director Jesse Peretz, The Ex sat completed on the shelf for months before the Weinstein Company decided to release it amidst the glut of summer blockbusters. Despite flaws, The Ex has its entertaining moments, most of them based on the antics of Bateman and the supporting cast rather than the stars. While probably not something audiences will flock to theatres to see, it'll make a fine substitute for Braff fans the next time all the copies of Garden State are rented out.