I feel the need to write this review fairly quickly — The Ex is so goddamn forgettable that I fear if I don’t get my thoughts down quickly enough, my entire memory of the film will have disappeared before I emperiod the last sentence. So, how was it? It’s hard to say. My perspective is all out of whack — the comedies we’ve been subjected to so far this year (Norbit, Wild Hogs, I Think I Love My Wife, Kickin’ It Old Skool [sic]) have been so dreadful that, so long as it didn’t involve a prosthetically engorged labia or breakdancing, The Ex had no choice but to succeed on the basis of relative quality.
Does that make it a decent movie? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s kind of like watching a decent television show. Granted, suggesting that a film has a certain “sitcom” feel to it is an old movie-reviewing crutch, but the notion applies here. It was like a bad episode of “Scrubs” (or, you know, any of the ones from the latest season) super-super-sized into 90 minutes, but in the grand scheme of things, a bad episode of “Scrubs” is better than most of what you can find on television these days. Then again, how many people are willing to shell out $10 to watch a bloated sitcom episode on the big screen? Well, if you’re a big enough fan of Jason Bateman, I might just recommend it.
In fact, in addition to Bateman, the cast is like a who’s who of television actors: Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, Donal Logue, Fred Armison, Amy Poehler, Romany Malco (“Weeds”), and even Paul Rudd, Amy Adams, Charles Grodin, and Mia Farrow. I don’t know understand why most of them — who had only cameos or bit roles — agreed to be in The Ex, or how director Jesse Peretz managed to convince them all to show up for a half-day’s work (unless they were all huge fans of The Lemonheads, for whom Peretz was the bass player), but if anything, they were a welcome diversion — a (mostly) well-liked and recognizable group of faces to enliven a film that fizzles anytime Bateman isn’t onscreen.
The plot is as such: Tom (Braff — in “Scrubs” daffy mode, rather than Garden State naval-gaziness) is a goofy layabout who can’t seem to hold down a job (he’s fired as a chef in the opening minutes by his boss, played amusingly by Rudd) and decides to leave the city and move to Ohio with his wife, Sophia (Amanda Peet) to take a job at an new-age advertising agency with Sophia’s dad (Charles Grodin in his first movie role in over a decade). The catch: Sophia’s old high-school boyfriend, wheelchair-bound Chip (Jason Bateman) is his mentor, and he’s an asshole determined to sabotage Tom’s marriage and steal his wife. Sophia, meanwhile, is a stay-at-home mom bored with the suburban doldrums and forced to contend with a hippy-dippy mother’s group (led by Amy Adams). The two hate their small-town Ohio lives, but neither one is willing to admit it to the other, which creates the flimsy artifice that keeps The Ex chugging along like a frat boy with acid reflux.
I dunno that there’s much more to say than that — and if there is, I’ve already forgotten it. Amy Adams and, especially, Amy Poehler, maximize their brief appearances. Braff, in an obvious Ben Stiller role, plays up that baby-talk voice he’s been overusing in “Scrubs” to obnoxious effect, though he’s nevertheless likable in his Braffian way; Peet is adorable and, as usual, completely wasted, but Bateman absolutely steals the film. I mean, steals it — he milks the wheelchair disability for more laughs than a Farrelly Brothers’ gimmick warrants, and while he’s onscreen you actually feel like you’re watching a great screwball comedy. I mean, c’mon! He tries to seduce Sophia by watching Coming Home! That’s gold. He’s weird and skeevy and damn near makes The Ex worth seeing. Unfortunately, the script from first-timers David Guion and Michael Handelman doesn’t help anybody out — the romance is far-fetched and empty, the contrivances are uninspired, and the lines aren’t terribly great. If not for the talent delivering them, The Ex would have been no better than your average CBS sitcom (“How I Met Your Mother” notwithstanding). Fortunately, Bateman could extract a laugh out of a dead mime by reading from a travel brochure.
All in all, The Ex has its moments — it can be mildly amusing, it’s mostly inoffensive, and it doesn’t inspire suicide metaphors : “The Ex — It doesn’t make you want to jump in a bathtub with a hairdryer!”
Given the recent run of big-screen comedies, that may actually constitute a ringing endorsement.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Oh, well, I’ll see it just for Jason Bateman.
Oh, and Forum Nazis: FIRST!!
Posted by: socalledonlycousins at May 10, 2007 3:01 PM
This is by far the funniest movie review title I’ve ever read. It made me laugh out loud in my depressing little cube, and for that I thank you. I didn’t make it through the whole review though, just because I care that little about this movie.
Posted by: bf at May 10, 2007 3:07 PM
I don’t know exactly when it started but I’m getting a little sick of Mr. Braff. I’ll see this because of Jason Bateman
Posted by: BarbadoSlim at May 10, 2007 3:10 PM
As much as I love “Scrubs,” I do it for Donald Faison and John C. McGinley. ZB’s shtick is starting to wear a little thin. Somehow, JD in a movie doesn’t sound too promising.
Posted by: bonnie at May 10, 2007 3:13 PM
I’m a bit more forgiving of Braff than most around here, I suppose, but he does seem rather limited in his ability to carry a film (and let’s face it, Natalie Portman helped carry Garden State like, a lot). Still, if it means Jason Bateman gets better roles in hopefully better comedies, so be it.
Posted by: Armando at May 10, 2007 3:19 PM
Sighhhhhh…. Jason Bateman…. He is so fucking dreamy. One time I had a dream where I made out with him, and it was like, the best dream ever.
I’ll catch it on Netflix.
Posted by: litelysalted at May 10, 2007 3:30 PM
PS: I didn’t understand the review title. Somebody explain or bf email me or something.
PSS: bf You need a new “Pajiba Screenname.” Something with a little more pizzazz.
Posted by: litelysalted at May 10, 2007 3:34 PM
Well, you loyal Pajibans know about my rabid anti-Braffian sentiments. Gotta say, too, though that I’ve never seen the big deal with Peet’s talent. I think she’s lovely, but can’t see how she’d be “wasted” in a film.
Bateman is brilliant.
Posted by: Samantha T at May 10, 2007 3:35 PM
I think most here were charitably disposed toward Zachy-Zach initially; however twee “Garden State” was, it was head-and-shoulders above most of the dreck out of Hollywood. In fairness though, not only did Natalie Portman help carry it, there wasn’t much of a film without Peter Saarsgaard (h-o-o-o-o-t-t-t-t!) and Ian Holm either.
That seems to be the case in “The Ex” as well, with a superhuman supporting actor (Jason Bateman) and an appealing female lead (Peet) carrying a lot of Braff’s water. I’m not completely out of patience with him yet (despite the criminally crappy “The Last Kiss”), but it’s abundantly clear that he needs a strong ensemble to do well.
“Scrubs” would have been intolerable three years ago without Chocolate Bear and Elliott. (Chalke will always be Fake Becky to me though.)
Posted by: socalledonlycousins at May 10, 2007 3:38 PM
litelysalted, the title is a “Scrubs” reference to a character that often refers to himself as “The Todd” and creates themed high fives appropriate to the circumstances. You are welcome.
How could Bateman NOT steal the film? He steals the trailers, for crying out loud.
Posted by: Vermillion at May 10, 2007 3:49 PM
The sis just sent me some clips. I SO get it now. I just started watching Scrubs recently so I wasn’t totally familiar with the Todd character yet.
Posted by: litelysalted at May 10, 2007 3:53 PM
“Garden State naval-gaziness”
Wait, Zach Braff stares at seamen in Garden State?
That just might make me watch it!
(or not, as I have tried and failed to not be annoyed by him.)
Posted by: Rachel at May 10, 2007 4:06 PM
Slightly off-topic: I just re-watched the “Scrubs” episode on Comedy Central where JD goes to The Todd’s apartment and sees his banana hammock collection — sublime.
Posted by: socalledonlycousins at May 10, 2007 4:29 PM
Sounds like this movie is for Netflix, but I would have thought from the trailer that this movie was just…better. The scenes with Bateman really cracked me up, and it seems from the review that he truly was that hysterical in the movie. I’m a wee bit disappointed, but not that surprised. Ah well, life goes on. At least I have The Office to look forward to.
P.S. How do people use italics when posting? Unfortunately, I just don’t have those skills.
Posted by: JKo at May 10, 2007 4:45 PM
JKo: “Comments: (you may use HTML tags for style)”
So (i) & (/i) for italics and (b) & (/b) for bold. Just replace the parentheses with the angle brackets (alligators, or greater than and less than signs).
Posted by: The Stew at May 10, 2007 5:10 PM
Thanks, ! I had no clue what HTML tags were :-)
Hopefully it worked above; otherwise, I look like a complete jackass!
Posted by: JKo at May 10, 2007 5:56 PM
Yeah, I’m a jackass. *Blush*
I think I got it. Meant to say, “Thanks, Stew!”
Posted by: JKo at May 10, 2007 6:03 PM
Dustin, your frat boy metaphor was brilliant. I’m speechless.
Posted by: Jen at May 10, 2007 6:03 PM
BTW, DR, the Pajiba duds at onehorseshy are cool, but you’re missing out on a huge opportunity here! Maybe someone already pointed this out, but you guys need to crank out some logo’ed lounging-around bed-wear, so we can have … (get ready for it)
That’s right: The Pajiba Pajama.
Posted by: socalledonlycousins at May 10, 2007 6:10 PM
Maybe someone already pointed this out, but you guys need to crank out some logo’ed lounging-around bed-wear, so we can have … (get ready for it)
That’s right: The Pajiba Pajama.
OK socalledonlycousins, that was laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Posted by: pinkcheese at May 10, 2007 6:26 PM
pinkcheese: thanks for saying so — I thought of that in the car this morning, and my wife only thought I was more crazy AFTER I explained why I was sniggering.
I’m not even kidding though. I work at home a lot, and I would love Pajiba pajamas - sticking it to The Man in two ways at one time: Working at home in jammies (natch), and sporting a constant middle-finger at the intersection of Hollywood and Crap.
Posted by: socalledonlycousins at May 10, 2007 6:37 PM
Why doesn’t Amy Adams get better roles? She’s awesome. And so very very pretty.
Posted by: TT at May 10, 2007 11:44 PM
You forgot to mention that the title doesn’t really make sense. Bateman isn’t her ex. He’s her high-school best bud who she slept with once on a whim.
Everyone tried really hard, especially Bateman, but the material absolutely isn’t there. I thought it was essentially You Me and Dupree with funnier actors or Cable Guy with a way shittier, much less dark script. Something like that. And it’s painfully obvious that it tested poorly like a year ago (when it was called Fast Track, an equally retarded title for this movie) and they did reshoots and recuts and bad ADR to try and polish a turd. But the movie’s a mess.
PS I find nothing wrong with this or any season of Scrubs.
Posted by: Matthew Tobey at May 10, 2007 11:54 PM
I think i’ll pass.
Posted by: Jean at May 11, 2007 5:35 AM
I, for one, would welcome the Pajiba Pajamas.
Posted by: Ranylt at May 11, 2007 9:46 AM
How can everybody say Natalie Portman carried Garden State? That movie stunk on ice; there was no “carrying.” But especially not by her, because she’s about the most overrated actress out there…
Posted by: bf at May 11, 2007 10:07 AM
Dustin, your frat boy metaphor was a simile.
Posted by: rose at May 11, 2007 10:45 AM
The Washington Post reviewer for this said that Garden State was “edgily original” and that they enjoyed The Last Kiss, but they just didn’t enjoy this one.
My reaction was to think that this must be the most offensively bad movie ever made, perhaps so bad that it could tear the fabric of space and time itself.
Glad to hear it isn’t that terrible. Still, I will definitely be giving this one a pass.
Posted by: mk at May 11, 2007 10:57 AM
yes, yes, pajiba pajamas!!
Posted by: Alarmjaguar at May 11, 2007 12:31 PM
It’s not very often that Pajiba is kinder to a movie than MSN or tvguide (I forget which; not that I look anywhere else for movie reviews; because that would be bad; even if in my defense, I read all reviews that give 1 star; even better 1/2 a star). Must be the presence of Jason Bateman.
Posted by: anikitty at May 11, 2007 1:41 PM
^^bf, i agree, natalie portman is just about the most overrated actress…. i refuse to watch her in movies.
and i’m down with the pajiba pajamas, for sure!
Posted by: athena at May 11, 2007 2:45 PM
Rose, a simile is a metaphor. Get over yourself.
Posted by: Jen at May 11, 2007 3:38 PM
Wait, wait, wait, I don’t think a simile is a metaphor — I think a simile requires an express comparison using an equating word, e.g., “like”: “Jen is like a cantankerous English teacher.” The simile admits the comparitors are not the same thing.
With a metaphor, the comparison is implied: “Rose is the key to unlock Jen’s cantankerousness.” The metaphor states they are the same thing, knowing the recipient will understand that they are not.
But what do I know — I thought Toto was saying “an empress above the Serengeti.”
Posted by: socalledonlycousins at May 11, 2007 4:12 PM
I just wrote a bunch of crap about metaphors and similes, but then I realized no one cares. Sorry, Pajibaland, for my cantankerousness.
Posted by: Jen at May 11, 2007 5:01 PM
I read that somewhere else too, that it was like a long sit com.
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Posted by: kailua hawaii home refinancing at May 11, 2007 9:45 PM
Oh yes, Pajiba Pajamas!
Plus sizes, please.
I’d pay real money for something like that. A nice, classy way to hack off damn near everybody who’d ever see me in them. And oh yeah, Pajiba really needs to collect a tariff on these. You’d make a fortune, we wouldn’t mind, and maybe you could be a little pickier about the ads on the site. Everybody wins!
Posted by: bjs1109 at May 11, 2007 11:30 PM
Pajamas are nice, I guess, but I live in the tropics friends, nothing but a Pajiba thong will do, and throw some flip-flops in there as well.
Posted by: BarbadoSlim at May 11, 2007 11:43 PM
I don’e entirely understand when everyone became so anti-Braff!! Admittedly, JD can be irritating, (but usually on purpose, I might add!), admittedly Garden State was over-earnest, and admittedly Zach’s style isn’t necessarily to everyone’s tastes. However, Scrubs is still one of the better shows on TV (Like Dustin said, a bad episode of Scrubs is still better than the best that a host of other shows can dredge up). I think the reason the Braff-hostility confuses me so much, is that the review for Garden State on this website was pretty damn positive!! I love scrubs (actually, I have a disturbing obsession with it!), and I loved Garden state. I recognize the faults in both, however, I still think that it is better than so much out there. Also, since when was uber-earnestness a reason for such distaste - it can be annoying/irritating etc, but at least it’s better than not caring at all/being proud of not caring at all etc. (I should mention that I was just forced to watch the Paris Hilton National Lampoon movie with the kids I was babysitting for. Garden State in comparison is Citizen freaking Kane!!) I think Garden State is of especial merit considering he wrote, dircted and acted in it, and it was his first major movie outing on all three fronts. I am filled with Braff love!! “Someone please explain Pajiba Braff-disdain” five!!??!!
Posted by: JJ McJay at May 12, 2007 1:04 AM
The Ex / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 11, 2007 | Comments ()