THE EX (Jesse Peretz). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (May 11). Rating: NN Rating: NN
Comeback kid Jason Bateman has spent his entire life playing the straight man. So he must have relished chewing the scenery as passive-aggressive monster Chip in The Ex . It's no surprise the film's named after him; he's the only memorable thing about it.
The plot is pure sitcom, so you don't have to see it from the start to know what's going on. (Some of the critics at Wednesday's screening took this literally.)
Zach Braff plays Tom, a directionless new father living in Manhattan who's just been fired. Deciding to start anew, he and his pretty lawyer wife, Sofia ( Amanda Peet , wasted as usual), pack up their things and their baby and move to Ohio, where Sofia's dad ( Charles Grodin ) has a job in advertising waiting for Tom.
Alas, Tom's superior is none other than Chip, who still has a thing for Sofia and - wouldn't you know it? - makes Tom's life hell. Tom's attempts to prove that the wheelchair-bound Chip is a sociopath all backfire.
Director Jesse Peretz and his novice screenwriters lurch desperately from lame jokes to slapstick. Braff gamely walks into every gag as if he's come off the set of Scrubs.
But Peretz approaches the film like a pickup game of basketball. Who's available? Romany Malco ? Amy Adams ? SNL's Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler ? Excellent! Let's throw them in a scene and see what they can do.
Only Bateman, prim and proper in his bow tie and sweater vests, creates anything approaching a comic character. The rest of the pic demonstrates arrested development.