The spirit of a good Farrelly brothers movie comes alive in The Ex, a surprisingly likeable comedy, with just enough oddball curves up its sleeve to avoid feeling overly familiar. In fact, in the same year the Farrellys released their misanthropic version of The Heartbreak Kid, director Jesse Peretz reminds them how to get their own tone right -- without losing the naughty edginess. To extend the analogy, Zach Braff plays the role that Ben Stiller used to play better than he currently does, exasperated yet earnest. In such a broad physical comedy, Braff could have slouched toward his tired Scrubs mugging, but here he shows that his more highfalutin projects have rubbed off on him -- at least a little bit. That broad physicality is no indictment, however, as the definite key to this film is Braff's rival, played by Jason Bateman, who's wheelchair-bound yet unworthy of the sympathy usually associated with that. Any viewer who wondered how they were going to pull that off need not worry -- Bateman makes his Chip deliciously detestable, but without crossing over into camp. Their bitter jockeying plays out over a number of good set pieces, most awkwardly, when the able-bodied Braff gets tricked into a game of wheelchair basketball -- where everyone else thinks he's paralyzed. The writing zips, with Amanda Peet giving it more oomph than anyone. Even Charles Grodin has a winning supporting role as Peet's father, showing he's still got whip-smart comic timing. It's risky to hand out such accolades to a relatively inconsequential comedy, but The Ex needs a little extra help, as it was brutally received by a number of critics. That's a shame, because there are a lot of laughs in this movie -- and not just guilty ones, either.
by Derek Armstrong review