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THE EX

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, Jason Bateman, Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow, Donal Logue, Amy Poehler, Amy Adams, Fred Armisen
Director: Jesse Peretz
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Weinstein Company
Features: See Review
Length: 84 Minutes
Release Date: August 21, 2007

ďReilly, is it? Do ya have Irish blood in ya by any chance?Ē

ďMe fatherís father was an Irishman, so I have a WEE bit of the leprechaun in me.Ē

ďAre ya making fun of me?Ē

ďNo, Iím sorry. IÖI thought that was a fake accent.Ē

ďWhy?Ē

ďI donít know.Ē

Film ***1/2

Plot-wise, thereís nothing remarkably original about The Ex, but the movie carries with it a superb comic energy. The one thing that keeps it going with extreme laughter is a wonderfully game cast that really delivers in scene after scene. The result is a slightly dark screwball romantic comedy that, and these are the kinds of comedies that are hard to come by these days in terms of high quality.

And yet, this film went criminally unnoticed in its theatrical run. That may have to do with the fact that the movie underwent a noticeable title change in the midst of its marketing. It was first titled as Fast Track, only to be changed a couple of months later to The Ex. In my honest opinion, they went with a better title, but anytime a movie undergoes a title change, itís never a good sign in terms of drawing an audience. Hereís hoping DVD gives it a second life.

The movie centers on Tom Reilly (Zach Braff), a New Yorker who as the story opens has just lost his job. To make matters worse, he happens to lose his job on the very same day his pregnant wife, Sophia (Amanda Peet), goes into labor.  Becoming a father and not having a job is the best of combinations.

Since Tomís job history hasnít been so great in the Big Apple, Sophia suggests that they get a new start on life in her hometown in Ohio. Her father (Charles Grodin) is quick to offer Tom a job at his advertising agency. Itís the perfect step for Tom getting back on his feet in the workplace, though the advertising firm is filled left and right with some quirky staff members.

So life is going great for Tom, that is, until he seems to rub a fellow employee the wrong way. His name is Chip Sanders (Jason Bateman), who has been wheelchair-bound since age 5. On Tomís first day, he unintentionally points out Chipís handicap, and things donít get any better from that awkward moment.

Chip is assigned as Tomís mentor on all things advertising. He promises that he will be Tomís Miyagi to his Macchio. But Tom finds himself at odds when it turns out that Chip is an ex-boyfriend of Sophiaís, and he appears to still have the hots for her.

What follows is a series of office war games as Chip sets out to humiliate Tom at any cost, all out of jealousy. And they set up some big laughs, such as a scene where Chip leaves Tom out to dry at a staff meeting, resulting in the most hilarious scene involving the reading of flow charts Iíve seen in a movie. Chip also sabotages Tomís computer withÖwell, you will just have to see for yourself.

But before long, Tom becomes convinced that Chip is faking his handicap. Since Sophia mentioned that they did in fact make love while they were together, Tom grows more and more suspicious. Chip is charming to just about everyone around him, but Tom isnít buying it for a second.

Zach Braff has enjoyed an impressive film career following his work on Scrubs, still one of the funniest shows in television history. After back-to-back successes with the outstanding dramas Garden State and The Last Kiss, Braff headlines his first movie comedy with hilarious results. The byplay between Braff and co-star Jason Bateman, himself a star of possibly the funniest and most genius television series Arrested Development, is priceless in both dialogue and physical comedy.

And itís also great to see Charles Grodin back in a movie after a 13-year hiatus. I really had no idea he had taken such a long break.

I should probably mention a difference between the two versions out on DVD. Having seen The Ex in its theatrical run, I was stunned to see how much was cut out of this new Unrated version, which is actually five minutes shorter. A couple of scenes have been removed and to top it all off the ending is somewhat different, resulting in the cutting of a priceless sight gag that nearly had me falling out of my chair laughing. Iím almost tempted to persuade you to go with the Theatrical DVD release. The only problem is itís only available in Full Screen. I feel the need to petition The Weinstein Company for yet another desired release, that of an Unrated version of this movie with all the missing scenes put back into the movie.

But either way you see it, The Ex is still an energetic gem of a comedy. A tremendous cast is able to take an overall predictable film and inject it with comedic life, making it a tremendously enjoyable laugh fest.

BONUS: Paul Rudd has a hilarious pop up appearance at the beginning of the movie as a restaurant boss from hell. Probably the funniest scene in the film, to be honest with you.

Video ***

The anamorphic picture on this Weinstein Company release is most acceptable. The image quality is pure image clarity, give or take a slight instance of noticeable grain. But the picture however remains bright and lively as can be, with terrific color appearance as well.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix suits this dialogue-oriented comedy quite well. Dialogue delivery is quite clear and extremely well delivered. Music playback is also well heard through the speakers and even some of the more intense physical pratfalls are delivered with a nice level of force.

Features **

Featured on this disc are Deleted Scenes, An Alternate Opening and three Alternate Endings, a Blooper Reel and a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

The laughs come fast and furious in The Ex. Since slapstick comedies or anything remotely screwball-like are hard to achieve without embarrassment, this represents something of a treat. Definitely a must for hardcore fans of Zach Braff and Jason Bateman.

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