Picture this: potty jokes, body parts, a car chase or two and Owen Wilson. If this sounds appealing, then “Hall Pass” is the flick for you.
As for the rest of us, we can easily use a “pass” of our own and skip out on the Farrelly brothers’ (“The Heartbreak Kid”) new gross-out comedy. With only a few redeeming moments — most of which are spoiled by the previews — the film remains on a relatively unintelligent plane, which is disappointing coming from this experienced and generally comically successful cast.
“Hall Pass” stars Wilson (“Little Fockers”) as a sexually frustrated suburban dad, accompanied by Jason Sudeikis (“Going the Distance”) as his equally discontent partner-in-conjugal-crime. Both married to unrealistically stunning wives, played by Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) and Christina Applegate (“Going the Distance”), their marital boredom is initially completely unbelievable. But as the story develops, it becomes a slightly less ridiculous concept. The two men are given a “hall pass” from their marriage, allowing them a week’s break from the matrimonial bond, to do whatever — or whomever — they please, with no consequences.
“It’s a guy concept,” said Peter Farrelly, one of the film’s writers/directors, in a recent interview with IMDb.com. “But ultimately I think it’s a chick flick… It goes both ways, this hall pass idea, and it’s a lot scarier when women get a hall pass than when guys do.”
Disappointingly, the Farrelly brothers take a rather traditional approach to family values and this plays out in the stereotypical wife characters, who are fans of Kathy Griffin, hot baseball players and dinner parties. The overall story winds up proposing that a happy marriage is most easily achieved when the involved parties put their pasts aside to focus on an unbalanced future, in which the wives hold the sexual reins. Not exactly revolutionary stuff.
The acting is admirable, but the script pushes the characters over the top, as with any Farrelly brothers comedy. The female leads are generally pleasant characters and the audience completely sympathizes with their need to take a break from marriage for a week, both for their husbands’ sake and their own. And while the male leads certainly have their funny moments — picture soccer dads trying to pick up chicks at Applebee’s — the Farrelly brothers’ bodily-fluid-heavy absurdity of a script eliminates any chance for true comedic genius on the part of the actors.
The entirety of the film is spent wishing that Sudeikis would stick to “Saturday Night Live,” and that Ed Helms, known best for his brilliance as the geeky Andy Bernard on NBC’s “The Office,” would swoop in and take over the role.
Even with the addition of a flat-out funnier cast, there would not be much hope for a story this unintelligent. The Farrelly brothers seem to be the biggest fans of their own work, and are clearly counting on their ability to ride the “There’s Something About Mary” wave until the end of their directing days. And while Wisconsin will never forget the Brett Favre cameo that caught everyone’s attention, the Farrellys should have stopped there, and called it a day as far as writing comedies goes.
The mindless comedy on display for most of the film is temporarily redeemed by the few scenes that effectively capture the hilarious monotony of being 15 years into a marriage, and not as young as you once were.
For example, after a few truly pathetic nights of “game-spitting,” the two main characters are seen eating take-out and watching Kung Fu movies in the room where they are staying for the week. Their failed attempts to pick up ladies are pitifully displayed alongside this lonely day in a hotel room — one they rent purely to give them “a place to bring the babes.”
“Hall Pass” is also revived by a few touching scenes where Wilson and Sudeikis don’t make an appearance. But even at these rare points in the film, which put the focus on Fischer’s and Applegate’s characters, it is mostly the picturesque aerial shots of Cape Cod — the wives’ hideaway while their husbands have the week off — that make up for the script’s lack of character development and depth.
“We try to think of characters that you’ll like enough,” said Peter Farrelly, “that we can hang our jokes on them.”
Unfortunately, Peter, we are not big fans of the characters. And the jokes… Well, we don’t really like them, either.
1.5 out of 5 stars