A review of “The Ex” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

 

 

The classic winners and losers theme takes on hilarious implications in Jesse Peretz’s domestic cum dysfunctional comedy.

Zach Braff – who can inspire laughs by merely standing still – is pitch-perfect as Tom Reilly, a slacker-ish lunch chef with a high-powered lawyer wife (Amanda Peet as Sofia) whose about to deliver the couple’s first child.

Quick as a wink Tom is fired from his job – rather inconvenient considering that Sofia has her heart set on playing stay-at-home mom. Time to bite the bullet and accept that ad agency job that Sofia’s dad (Charles Grodin) has been touting from the get-go.

The wounds run deep – a move from the Big Apple to the groomed suburbs of Ohio, a surprise interior design job courtesy mom-in-law (Mia Farrow) and a new gig as “assistant associate creative” for hippy-dippy Sunburst Creations.

It goes from bad to worse when Tom locks horns with new boss (and ex-Sofia squeeze) Chip Sanders (Jason Bateman), a master manipulator whose sinister mother-ship is a wheelchair.

The gags fly fast and furious, a colorful spectrum of dirty tricks and underhanded sabotage meant to send Tom packing. For the most part the subplots work their magic – Sofia bored with her stay-at-home status, the Zen guru (Donal Logue) who engineers the paradigm shifts at Sunburst, and comical abject apologies in the form of Japanese “moushiwake”, mea culpa tone poems expressed on yellow post-its (you had to be there).

It’s the cast and its chemistry that ultimately render “Ex” a satisfying laugher. Bateman is deliciously psychotic, Grodin entertainingly clueless and Braff and Peet spar with convincing affection.

Granted we’ve seen it all before. But just when “The Ex” looks like it’s anxiously casting about for the finish line it cuts its inevitable losses and wraps up neatly and without a fuss.

No year-end awards but boy did I laugh.