New York City-ites Tom and Sofia Reilly are having a baby. They love to cuddle together, searching through baby-name books and dreaming of their new family. Sofia also longs to give up her job as a lawyer and settle in as a full-time mom.
But she can't do that if Tom can't bring home the bacon. It ought to be easy for him since he works at a restaurant and is on the fast track to becoming the head chef. It's not. When Tom stands up for a friend at work, he's tossed out of the frying pan and into the fire, losing his culinary career. So the couple moves back to Sofia's Midwestern hometown where Tom accepts a job with his father-in-law at Sunburst Communications, a New-Agey advertising firm.
The job of mentoring Tom and molding him into Sunburst material falls to Sofia's high school boyfriend Chip—a seemingly goodhearted paraplegic, beloved by all. But when Tom tries to work hard and join the team, Chip unexpectedly rolls over him with dirty tricks and undercover sabotage. The bewildered New Yorker determines to fight fire with fire, but soon realizes that the wheelchair-bound Machiavelli is after more than his dignity. He's after his wife.
When Tom loses his job at the restaurant, he asks, "What if this whole thing was a message from God to move out of the city?"
Tom and Sofia passionately kiss on several occasions (once with him grabbing at her body). Sofia and Chip reunite by doing some old high school cheers, culminating in Chip holding her in the air with his hand on her backside (while he sneers at Tom). Sofia and another woman both reach through the neckline of their shirts to rub "Bag Balm" on their breasts. When Tom snuggles in to kiss his wife, she rejects him by suggesting he use the Bag Balm on himself. Another time, Tom starts kissing his way down toward his wife's breast. She stops him with, "Oliver eats from there. It just seems kind of weird."
A number of people make comments about Chip's penis (including Chip). Sophia talks about Tom's "peep" with a nurse. Sofia admits to Tom that she had sex with Chip in high school. A woman at work begins describing sex with Chip to Tom (he stops her). Tom and Sofia meet with a co-worker who is studying to be a marriage counselor. He suggests, "Let's start by holding each other's genitals." In another scene, a friend also gives Tom a suggestion about how to get better sex from his wife.
Chip leaves a video of "gay porn" running on Tom's laptop computer. (We see two shirtless men kissing.) Chip "accidentally" touches Sofia's breast while stroking her baby's head. He also tells Sofia that he still has her panties from their night together. Short skirts and cleavage make appearances. In the gym locker room, Tom takes off his shirt and Chip is seen sitting naked in his wheelchair.
Wanting to prove that Chip isn't a cripple, Tom drags him to the top of the stairs and drops him. Tom and Chip scuffle, and Chip repeatedly runs into him, hits him and throws him to the ground. Tom is choked and has his fingers smashed by another man in a wheelchair. Tom crashes over the handlebars of his mountain bike several times (once smashing into a parked car's windshield). He's also hit in the head with a snowboard. A skateboarding man in a pickle costume crashes into a metal railing.
An argument in a restaurant kitchen culminates in a man being repeatedly hit with a pork chop. During a marriage counseling session, Sofia and Tom hit each other on the body and in the face with padded bats. Tom fiercely hits the counselor in the face with the bat, too. A neighbor woman sprays Tom in the eyes with some kind of garden/weed spray.
[Spoiler Warning] Chip stands in the street holding his wheelchair defiantly over his head and is hit by a bus. Later he's seen trying to crawl into a building with casts on his legs.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Sofia's dad drowns his sorrows by drinking scotch while mowing the front yard.
Other Negative Elements
Sofia swears in front of her 10-year-old neighbor and allows him to watch TV at her house in spite of the fact that his father told him not to. The boy shows Tom disrespect, and even makes an obscene hand gesture in his direction.
That said, pretty much everyone in the movie is self-serving. Even Tom, who previously stood up for a friend at work, is initially willing to let his father-in-law be fired for his mistake. [Spoiler Warning] Chip admits that he isn't crippled and says he's maintained the facade to gain handicap parking at the mall and lots of sympathy sex.
Through the ages, people have been trying to pin down this elusive thing called comedy. What makes us smile? Chuckle? Guffaw? Most often it is the element of surprise—the classic banana peel pratfall. Sometimes it's the incongruity of a situation, like a Candid Camera talking mailbox. Or the ambivalence of conflicting emotions—Bill Cosby's statement to a troublesome son: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it"—can also tickle the funny bone.
Unfortunately we're seeing more and more of today's gags floundering on the wobbly stage of embarrassing situations and juvenile toilet humor. Those two "comic" bits are the main ingredients in most of the sitcoms on TV. And they're also the mainstay of The Ex. (Which actually makes sense since the movie's stars hail from shows such as Scrubs and Arrested Development.)
The movie has a generally amiable lead character and a married couple who voice love for each other, but little else. The toilet-minded and insensitive meanderings of this obscenity-dappled and laugh-crippled flick range from discussions of a woman's body excretions during childbirth to repeated banterings about the size and shape of various genitals. (And don't even get me started on how it deals with physical handicaps.) The rest of the movie's hour and a half focuses on running Tom through as many predictable and embarrassingly awkward moments as possible, resulting in about the same ha-ha quotient as an average 30 minutes on TV. The problem here is that you can't change the channel.
The Ex was originally slated to premiere in December 2006, but for now-obvious reasons it was pushed back through January, February, March and April '07, until it finally landed in May amidst a slew of towering summer blockbusters. With luck it will go unnoticed and won't draw unsuspecting families in with the lure of its TV stars, drifting away to be equally unnoticed on some dusty DVD bargain rack. The thought of such a fate is one of the only things about this movie that makes me smile, chuckle and guffaw.