Born Too Late: Burying the Ex

by |
06/17/2015 8:08 AM |
photo courtesy of RLJE Image Entertainment

Burying the Ex
Directed by Joe Dante
Opens June 19

Be it ageism or just one flop too many, it’s been a long time since director Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) has been allowed to be Joe Dante. If his last studio job, the flop Looney Toons: Back in Action, was any indication, his practical effects-driven fetishism of cartoons and B-movies is no longer tolerated. With Burying the Ex, he’s in a similar position to his salad days under Roger Corman’s watch: got something to prove? Make it fast and cheap. While that should invite a return to form (satirizing and rejuvenating stale genres with a dark sweetness), Dante settles into a laziness his former self would have shunned.

Burying the Ex would not have been out of place in 2008, when Dante first read Alan Trezza’s barely revised script. Two then-popular sub-genres of the romantic comedy—the zom-rom-com and the gleefully misogynistic “Tale of the Girlfriend from Hell”—are merged, their clichés intact and quite revered. There’s the Nice Boyfriend, his Nightmare Girlfriend, the Fratty Best Friend, and the Other, Sweeter Woman. Fulfilling the first stock type is Max (Anton Yelchin), who’s deliberately likable: he’s a scooter-riding horror nerd who wants to open a horror boutique! Which means, of course, we should hate his girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene), an environmentally conscious vegetarian blogger, which is equated with being an overbearing shrew. But the sex is great, which makes it fine, right?

Because the friendship with schlubby womanizer Travis (Oliver Cooper) depends on it, bro must dump that broad. But just as Max is about to reluctantly/nicely do so, a city bus strikes and kills Evelyn. Convenient; he just met charming ice cream shop owner Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), there to coddle his man-childhood. But because Max and Evelyn made a vow in front of a wish-granting Satan doll, they are to be together forever. That’s the only explanation for why Evelyn digs herself out of her grave, hornier and more overbearing than ever. Worst of all, she grants permission for bad, punny exchanges:  “It’s your funeral!” “Been there, done that!” These proceedings, and the predictable beats thereafter, are so uncharacteristically full of conviction that no imprint on the filmmaker’s behalf (beyond a cameo from ever-reliable Dick Miller) is left, an ill too common among his generation of filmmakers.