Beware the romantic comedy that stars the sitcom actor, for with Scrubs still on the air, that is exactly what Zach Braff is. The Ex, one of those odd romantic comedies that is neither very romantic nor successfully comic, never rises above the level of a TV show grotesquely inflated for the big screen. The only thing missing is the laugh track. It is a woeful exercise that is a waste of time and talent. Rather than build on the success of his amiable Garden State, Braff seems committed to wearing out his welcome with his neurotic man-child shtick.
Braff's latest aging adolescent is Tom Reilly, a 30-something New York chef who agrees to move to Ohio and change careers when his first child is born. His high-powered lawyer wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) has decided to exchange taking depositions for changing diapers andafter getting fired from his chef's jobaccepting his father-in-law Bob's (an ill-used Charles Grodin) offer to work with him at an ad agency is apparently the only option left to Tom in the entire universe.
Tom's most immediate and pressing problem is his new boss Chip Sanders (Arrested Development's Jason Bateman), a paraplegic who turns out to be a one-time high school fling of Sofia's, who happens to still carry a serious torch for her. Chip is one of those demon seeds who hides behind a nice guy veneer, magnified in this instance by the sympathy he receives being confined to a wheelchair. And while it seems odd that no one in his life has apparently noticed his dark side before, Tom becomes intimately familiar with it as his "mentor" sabotages, sandbags, and otherwise tortures him over and over again. Chip is apparently the writers' idea of "edgy" comedy, since his disabled status offers so many opportunities for politically incorrect humor. But the trouble with humor at Chip's expense isn't that it might give offense, it's that it isn't funny.
And there's not much that is funny about The Ex. Amy Poehler as Tom's unhappy co-worker Carol gets off a few nice lines and Paul Rudd in a cameo as Tom's obnoxious restaurant boss is amusing, but the humor pretty much stops there. Most of the stuff that is supposed be a laugh riot just isn't, and there's plenty of stuff that borders on the ghastly, like Sofia's increasing unhappiness as motherhood does not quite meet her expectations.
The Ex has one more huge problem and that is in making Tom the "hero" of the movie. He is not a nice guy. The difference between him and Chip is one of perception. Chip is an obvious heavy, while Tom sees himself as this good person. But Tom's true character is revealed in his obliviousness to his wife, his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions, and his general smarminess. True, this type of character is another sitcom staple, but what works at 22 minutes quickly grows tired at 93 with no commercials.
If Braff really wants a movie career, he is going to have to do better than this mediocrity. Why should anyone pay to see this when they can catch his act on TV for free?