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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: The Ex

Review by Andrew Hunt

After months of delays, The Weinstein Company's newest comedic venture, The Ex, quietly hit theaters this May. The build up to the premiere of this film was certainly an odd one: here we had three big names in Zach Braff (Scrubs), Amanda Peet (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), and Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Dodgeball,The Break-Up), yet there seemed to be no marketing done for this film whatsoever. Aside from the occasional TV spot, The Ex was essentially thrown into theaters without so much as a whisper of advertising done. However, even with some Shrek-like press, nothing would change the fact that this film really wasn't all that great. Even with the names, The Ex ends up being another dull, poorly romantic comedy.

In the film, Braff plays Tom, a chef living in New York with his pregnant wife, Sofia (Peet). After an altercation at work with a blink-and-you'll-miss him Paul Rudd, the couple leave Manhattan for a more economically sound life in Ohio, where Sofia's father (Charles Grodin) offers Tom a job with his ad agency. Figuring it to be a cushy 9-to-5, Tom quickly realizes his new boss, the wheelchair-stricken Chip Sanders (Bateman), is a former lover of Sofia's, who subsequently still has the hots for her, and is eager to make Tom look as foolish as possible as often as he can, hoping to win Sofia back.

What follows is a cliche, caddywampus series of events that follow a familiar format: everyone loves Chip, Tom knows Chip is insidious, Chip makes Tom look stupid/evil/awkward, everyone loves Chip, Chip taunts Tom when no one is looking, Tom gets frustrated and attempts to get back at him, fails miserably, everyone hates Tom and love Chip even more. It's a tired process that grows old quickly, despite having the normally great talents of Braff and Bateman at the helm. That is to say, however, that the film is not without its share of laughs, most notably coming from the supporting roles of a wide-array of Frat Pack-related actors. Amy Adams as Sofia's passive aggressive high school friend/enemy eager to reestablish the relationship is spot on, with turns from Amy Poelher and Fred Armisen also providing a few mild chuckles. Rudd's role, though extremely brief, provides the largest laughs of the film (clip of Rudd's cameo).

The film's lack of motivation does not come from a weak script: in theory, the story seems like it could have been fairly strong. Coming from first-timers David Guion and Michael Handleman, it emotes similar feelings of honest sincerity seen in films like There's Something About Mary and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. However, I'm not sure director Jesse Peretz ever bought into it. The tone of the film is so unclear, the actors seem to barely know their places. Inconsistency is the first word that comes to mind, but is at the same time an understatement: the film wants to go to that next level, but it doesn't seem to want try very hard, and neither do its actors.

Braff is happy taking a knock on the head or a knee to the groin while Bateman chooses to rely on his normal, idiosyncratic wit, but without a real reason to back it up, the routine falls short and isn't nearly as successful as his efforts in Arrested Development and The Break-Up, or Dodgeball for that matter. At that, the chemistry between Peet and Braff just isn't there. Sometimes it's hard to tell if they're an engaged couple or lab partners in a high school biology class, though this could easily be attributed to a flat and stale effort from Peet.

The Ex is the quintessential hot-or-miss romcom you'd expect, but not from such talents as Braff and Bateman. There roles seemed better fitted for Jimmy Fallon and Jim Belushi, respectively. Overall, the film reflects it's sub par marketing exploits: a so-so effort that could have been a thousand times better, but ultimately lacked any motivation to make it work.

**

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