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The Ex

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Trailer for "The Ex"

It’s probably no accident that the Zach Braff vehicle The Ex includes a scene with him having an altercation in a hospital with a bald-headed black doctor (The 40 Year Old Virgin’s Romany Malco). It’s a nod to Scrubs and the chemistry between Braff and Donald Faison that is such a large part of that show’s success. It’s a genially amusing (albeit brief) scene that seems intended to remind viewers what it is they like about Braff in the first place. If that was actually the point, director Jesse Peretz should have put it nearer to the end of the film, the point at which audiences actually will be asking themselves why they paid good money to see this labored comedy. It’s a comedy of humiliation that might have been scripted Ben Stiller, though even he would have had the sense to turn this one down. Having been fired from his current job after a fight with his bullying boss, Braff’s Tom Reilly is forced to leave Manhattan for (gasp!) Ohio in order to support his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) and their newborn child. The advertising agency job comes through the intercession of Sofia’s father (Charles Grodin, in his first film since 1994). The firm’s new age-y style is anathema enough to him, but Tom’s real tribulation comes when he is assigned a mentor: Chip (Jason Bateman), a bully in a wheelchair who turns everyone’s innate pity to his advantage. Worse, he’s had a crush on Sofia since high school and is determined to get her back. There are endless scenes of Tom either saying something stupid in his eagerness to get along at is new job or being manipulated into looking the fool by Chip, all of which get worse as he tries to lie or otherwise weasel his way out of them. It’s an uncomfortable form of comedy that director Peretz has no talent for. Nor does it help that the film looks to have been substantially edited (it’s been sitting on the shelf for awhile, and what’s left clocks in at 80 minutes plus credits). If Braff isn’t more careful about choosing film roles, his movie career is going to wind up in the same ditch with Ray Romano, a point of comparison he could do without.