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The Ex (2006)
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/21/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/18/2007
As someone who is familiar with exploitation movies, I'm familiar with films which go through name changes. (It was a common practice on the drive-in movie circuit to re-release movies using different names in order to fool customers into seeing the same movie twice.) Also, it's not uncommon to learn that a movie had a different title during the script-development phase. But, it's rare to come across a modern Hollywood film like The Ex, which was known as Fast Track until just a short while before its theatrical release. (I clearly remember seeing trailers for Fast Track and then suddenly The Ex is being released!) No matter what you call this film, it's a total failure.
The Ex opens in New York City, where we meet restaurant cook Tom Reilly (Zach Braff) on the day that he's about to get a promotion. That doesn't pan out and he actually gets fired. That was particularly bad timing, as his wife, Sofia (Amanda Peet), goes into labor. Sofia had planned to leave her job as a lawyer and be a stay-at-home mom, but now that Tom is unemployed, they aren't sure what to do. So, they move to Sofia's hometown in Ohio, and Tom takes a job at the advertising firm where Sofia's father, Bob (Charles Grodin), works. Tom isn't crazy about the idea, but he knows that he needs the work. His enthusiasm is dampened further when he finds that the ad agency is an odd work environment run by a new-age hippie (Donal Logue) and that Sofia's high-school flame, Chip Sanders (Jason Bateman) works there. Chip is very good at his job, he's confined to a wheelchair, and everyone loves him...except for Tom. Tom immediately feels threatened by Chip (especially when he learns that Sofia and Chip had sex in high school) and soon becomes convinced that Chip is sabotaging his life. Can Tom prove that Chip is evil without alienating everyone around him?
When The Ex suddenly changed titles right before its release, I had a feeling that there were problems with the movie. Then, it opened on nearly 1000 screens and only brought in a little over $3 million, so that reinforced that notion there we weren't dealing with a classic here. But, none of that could prepare me for how truly bad this movie is. Given the cast involved, most of whom I've liked in other projects, I expected to at least feel something for the movie. But, The Ex's mean-spirited approach to comedy doesn't work and most of the jokes fall very flat.
It's fairly clear that director Jesse Peretz and screenwriters David Guion & Michael Handelman were going for a film that combined the sensibilities of a Farrelly Brothers movie and something like Meet the Parents. The movie deals with a person in a wheelchair, which can be a very touchy subject, and plays that for laugh. Then, we have Tom, who, like Greg in Meet the Parents, is the everyman who just wants to please and protect those around him, but he keeps doing things which make him look like a jerk. I feel certain that on paper this looked great. Hey, Farrelly Brothers plus Meet the Parents equal box office gold.
However, Peretza and company have completely missed the mark here. The main reason is that there are no likable characters in The Ex. Tom, the main character, is supposed to be our hero, but due to the fact that he's lazy, whiney, and self-centered, it's truly hard to get behind him. Sofia becomes a whiney stay-at-home mom. I don't have to work. Waa waa... I think the film wants us to dislike Chip -- I'm honestly not sure. His co-workers love him, Tom hates him, and Bateman portrays the guy in such a bland way that we have no idea how to feel about him. The other lovable actors who inhabit this movie, such as Donal Logue, Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler, and Amy Adams, simply come in and out of scenes leaving no impression. Honestly, the only character which made me laugh was Mia Farrow, who keeps speaking Spanish at inappropriate times.
There's nothing worse than going into a movie filled with familiar faces and then coming out wondering why any of those actors would have been involved with the movie. The Ex wants to be an edgy yet playful comedy, but what we get is an unfunny film which is actually quite depressing in places. Call this movie Fast Track. Call it The Ex. Just don't call it into your DVD player.
(For this review, the unrated version of The Ex was viewed. This version runs about 8 minutes shorter than the theatrical version. Having never seeing the theatrical cut, I can't comment on any changes, save for the very end, which is quite different. (The theatrical ending is included on this DVD.) This version has the feeling of a movie which has been mercilessly cut, as many scenes simply end with no punch line or resolution. Also, there is no material here, such as violence or nudity, which one would expect from an "unrated" DVD.)
The Ex tries to pick a title on DVD courtesy of The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks OK, but some scenes are littered with noticeable white spots on the image. Otherwise, the picture is fairly sharp and clear. The colors look fine, most notably the blues and reds. Some shots lacked in detail and there were slight haloes around the actors. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Save for some traffic noise, I didn't note any extraordinary stereo or surround sound effects. The subwoofer effects were very discrete as well. Overall, the audio is serviceable for a comedy, but it's nothing special.
The Ex DVD contains a smattering of extras. There are 8 DELETED SCENES which run about six minutes. Of these, only one featuring an exchange between Zach Braff and Amy Poehler is humorous. The ALTERNATE OPENING (90 seconds) is just weird and contains incomplete animation. There are 3 ALTERNATE ENDINGS on this disc, one of which is the above mentioned ending from the theatrical version. The other two have the same basic ending as the version on this DVD. The 3-minutes BLOOPERS has some fun gags. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER, where the title is The Ex and there's a locker room scene which wasn't in the unrated version or the deleted scenes on this DVD.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long