Burying The Ex sees Gremlins and Innerspace director Joe Dante try his hand at the zom-com-rom with – to put it kindly – mixed results. Martin Carr sorts the good from the bad…
If you took a moment to examine the work of Joe Dante something would be obvious. Whether it’s Gremlins, The Burbs, The Howling or Innerspace, there is clearly a love for nineteen fifties B-movie mash ups. A passion he channelled into mainstream movie success for almost two decades. Unfortunately absent from big screens for some time, Dante makes a welcome return here with his take on the zom-rom-com Burying The Ex.
Within moments we are introduced to Anton Yelchin’s Max, who spends his days selling novelty horror tat and watching old Val Lewton flicks. Last seen by this reviewer in Paul Schrader misfire Dying of the Light, Yelchin does his best but something is missing. It creates an issue, as Dante has tried to replicate a dynamic defined by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead. Putting Oliver Cooper opposite his lead as step brother Travis, forges a bromance which inherently lacks chemistry. Pegg and Frost had years of real friendship before Shaun which is why it worked. Here the spark is missing and for that reason things fall flat. No amount of uber bitch behaviour, average one liners and scenery chewing can make up for this fundamental flaw.
Elsewhere Ashley Greene as the eponymous ‘Ex’, goes to great lengths convincing us she is worth a restraining order and banishment from Facebook. Best known for a role in indie Kickstarter Wish I was Here, Greene and Yelchin suffer from issues of chemistry straight off. For something which professes to be a black comedy, Burying The Ex is neither particularly engaging or funny. While Alexandra Daddario’s Olivia who represents Max’s ideal woman, is hamstrung by a lack of invention and poor script choices. Chief of which is using a plot device straight out of body swop comedy Big. At best this is Sunday matinee fare or background noise over lunch.
Tonal issues mean Burying The Ex makes you smile rather than laugh, while Greene is so annoying you wonder why Yelchin took this long to leave. In my opinion only Oliver Cooper’s Travis comes out of this unscathed. Feeling like a throwback to Nick Frost’s breakout role in Shaun of the Dead, Cooper is a bird-dogging chick magnet of mammoth proportions. He is charming and slovenly, overweight and unwashed yet surrounded by models. But ultimately not even his charm and natural presence helps.
Irrespective of his love for Romero and Lewton Burying The Ex remains distinctly average fare. Screenwriter Tess Morris once told me that romantic comedies each contain the same journey. What makes each one different she said, is how the writer plans their route. Some use Tom Toms others a Garmin. Then there are those who get stuck on one way systems or trust luck rather than judgement. Dante clearly lost something along the way, making Burying The Ex a supreme waste of time, talent and money. Had he made the most of this premise, it could have been darkly diverting, rather than frustratingly formulaic.