Movie Review: Hall Pass
By Matthew Huntley
March 5, 2011
I might have been more lenient toward Hall Pass if I wasn’t holding it next to other Farrelly Brothers comedies. There was a time when these guys were the funniest filmmakers around (the restaurant fantasy sequence in Dumb and Dumber still makes me laugh out loud), but somewhere along the line they ran out of steam and Hall Pass is a manifestation of that sad fact. It is hardly an evil film, but it is dry and disappointing nonetheless. This is something you don’t care to admit when it’s Peter and Bobby Farrelly in the writer and directors chairs, but there you go.
The Farrellys have never been purveyors of high art, but their movies have at least been bold and energetic. Here, the story and execution are simple-minded and derivative, even for them. Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play Rick and Fred, a couple of button-down, conservative suburbanites living in a quaint neighborhood outside Providence, RI. They’re respectable citizens on the outside, with combed hair and white undershirts, and each is married to an understanding wife - Rick to Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Fred to Grace (Christina Applegate) - but underneath their clean exteriors are a couple of self-proclaimed hound dogs. Rick confesses he looks at other women because “that’s just how guys are built,” while Fred thinks he’s got his wife fooled by waiting until an attractive woman passes through his line of sight, making it impossible for him not to look at her. That way, he doesn’t get blamed for checking her out.
After embarrassing themselves and their wives at a party by unwittingly insulting the hosts with a series of sexual and crude insults, Maggie and Grace decide to give their husbands a hall pass, which is good for one week off marriage. Basically, they’re given permission to gawk, stare, drool and even cheat, except it’s not technically cheating because for the next seven days, they’re not married. All this is done in hopes the guys will get their sexual urges and perverse thoughts out of their system. In real life, any guy knows this would take a lot longer than a week.
When they hear the news, Rick and Fred are like two grade school kids who’ve just found out it’s a snow day they start to jump up and down, ready to hit the town…by going to Applebee’s, the golf course and staying at a hotel called the Comfi Nite Inn. It turns out they don’t have as much game as they thought and one of the movie’s running jokes is how out-of-touch Rick and Fred have become with today’s women. They talk the talk, but they hardly walk the walk.
The problem with Hall Pass is it’s basically a one-joke movie stretched out to 98 minutes. There are some so-so one-liners, thanks to Sudeikis, but the movie is mostly comprised of humor derived from other crude, gross-out guy movies we’ve seen before. We get a scene where the guys get stoned and defecate in public; there's the all too common shot of male frontal nudity; and yet another scene of scatology that’s more gross than funny, probably because we suspect it’s coming. Zack and Miri Make a Porno had a similar moment, but at least it was unexpected.
Another issue is the cast. I hate to call them out on this, but the acting isn’t particularly strong here. Everyone seems to be speaking their lines like it’s a rehearsal instead of putting any meaning behind them. I know acting isn’t as big of a deal in a movie like this, and it seems kind of petty to criticize the movie for it, but it’s something I noticed. Perhaps the problem is none of the characters are all that distinctive, which is odd since most Farrelly Brothers characters are one-of-a-kind. The cast isn’t given the chance to sink their teeth into really juice roles.
It would have been nice to say that Hall Pass has its moments but none of its scenes made me laugh hard enough to call them out. As a whole, the movie just seemed ho-hum and lackadaisical. I suppose the ending is sweet and moralistic, but that much is to be expected. What I was hoping for was some truly outrageous, ballsy humor, the kind I know the Farrelly Brothers are capable of. Hopefully they’ll be back some day and we can all take relief in knowing Hall Pass was just a temporary misfire.