Movie review: Hall Pass
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Opens locally on Friday, February 25th, 2011 (check for showtimes)
Run Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate
Directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly (There's Something About Mary, Shallow Hal, Fever Pitch)
A "Hall Pass" is when a married man is granted "freedom" from his wife to do whatever he wants for 1 week, including have an affair. No strings attached, no consequences. In the form of a Farrelly Brothers comedy, this premise seems full of promise and really sounds like a guy's movie...but make no mistake, this film is heavily weighed in favor of a female fantasy. If this movie chronicles what happens if a guy was actually granted a Hall Pass from his wife, I think the idea would lose it's appeal.
Let me explain. First, the movie relies heavily on cardboard thin stereotypes and worn-out cliches. The married men in the film, played by Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis (of Saturday Night Live), are legends in their own mind. They remember a time when they could have gotten any woman they want, but are now tied down to one woman. The wives approach their husbands differently...Christina Applegate allows her husband to believe these myths as not to deflate his ego. The other wife gets mad when the husband looks at another woman, and doesn't understand his desires, even though she's not really satisfying him on the homefront.
So when a friend introduces the idea of a Hall Pass, the wives get together and decide to grant one to both their husbands. Then they skip town to go up north, just the gals.
Predictably, guess what? The guys are total losers and couldn't pick up a woman with a forklift. They are so excited at the idea of the Hall Pass, that they end up spending the first several days "preparing" themselves and taking things slow. They go to Applebees to meet women. Their married friends gather around just to see what happens. Owen Wilson has always thought the local coffee shop gal was sexy, so he tries to up his game. No way does this girl ever give Owen Wilson the time of day, unless the script demands it.
On the flipside, the girls are hit on and spend the week gaining the attention of some local ball players. The younger, muscle-bound stud is attracted to Applegate's character, and both women decide that they have Hall Passes too, by default you see, since their husbands have them.
Later in the film, the guys eventually get out, and get caught up in some ridiculous circumstances involving a cougar, the hot young babysitter, and a jealous boyfriend. We learn as they learn that they never really could get women anyways (duh), and that even with a Hall Pass these two aren't going to get laid.
While the film has funny moments, it's the kind of film that pissed me off and left me bothered. I'm not the religious type, but if you value the sanctity of marriage I doubt this movie will come across as funny to you. The non-religious types will still find the movie's message to be pretty offensive, if not true: That guys, you probably can't get any girl you want unless you have six-pack abs, and girls, well, you can just about get any guy you would ever want, at any time. Not revelatory stuff here, but just kind of a bummer.
When one of the wives actually cheats, the charm and fun of the movie drains completely. Is adultery funny? Is cheating on your husband a good laugh? As you watch Hall Pass, you will find yourself waiting to see what the movie has to say about this Hall Pass Idea...what it says about marriage. When you arrive at the end and it seems to not say anything at all, it just comes across as a mean-spirited, low-brow look at relationships and the differences between the sexes.
From the directing duo who brough you "There's Something About Mary", you expect there to be some gross-out gags and shocking moments. There are plenty, none moreso than what may be the longest shot of frontal male nudity since Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights (no pun intended). Hang in there guys, there is also some gratuitous nudity from the gorgeous Nicky Whelan if you stay long enough. There are other gross-out gags, with people pooping on camera more than once in the film. There is literal bathroom-humor, if you would even call it "humor" when crap splatters on the bathroom wall.
So I guess it's my fault to expect the film to actually "say something" when it is clearly intended for a less-intelligent audience. Whether or not a Hall Pass seems appealing to you or a completely horrible idea, the film is more interested in what happens during the Hall Pass than the more interesting Hall Pass-Aftermath. Despite some funny cameos from Richard Jenkins, Stephen Merchant, and the scene-stealing J.B. Smoove (Leon Black of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), the movie just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. "Missed opportunities" isn't just referring to the married men's previous single lives, it perfectly sums up the film as well.
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