Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie with Abe: Hall Pass

Hall Pass
Directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Released February 25, 2011

Some movies have the potential to be good, while others simply start off without much of a chance. Perhaps it was my mistake to believe that this film might fall into the former category rather than the latter. Among the ten or so films that the Farrelly brothers have made over the past two decades, they’ve had a few duds, including the unfunny “Shallow Hal” and the rather uninteresting and lackluster “Fever Pitch.” Their reputation doesn’t lend itself to high art, which isn’t necessarily a problem. Yet there are plenty of things about their latest film that don’t speak terribly well to their talents.

The notion of wives giving their husbands a hall pass is a rather outrageous yet simulateneously hilarious idea for a film, and therefore that’s not where the problems with this film begin. When crafting a comedy, it’s important to choose a proper tone around which to structure the film. It’s possible to have good, clean fun, and also to have lewd, over-the-top, vile humor. It’s also possible to have a mix of the two, as seen in many of the films produced by Judd Apatow. This film shoots for the latter only, completely bypassing any sense of subtlety. Therefore, having the guys go to Applebee’s to pick up women (something that should have been relegated to a one-liner, not ten minutes of screen time) contrasts sharply with the vulgar and rather despicable nature of some of the film’s later gross-out moments, which as it happens are few and far in between.

That reliance on body and bathroom humor becomes problematic almost instantly because the film attempts to reach an endearing resolution almost immediately by playing dramatic music and showing that at least one of its protagonists, Rick (Owen Wilson), actually does love his wife and wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt her, despite his talk. That setup makes the use of the hall pass feel almost forced, taking away considerably credibility and intrigue from the plot. That lingering sense of an attempt at a positive message is horribly unbalanced with the film’s immature humor, and hardly any of the jokes are funny. Wilson, as has been the case since in several recent films, isn’t trying at all, and more credit is due to the excitable performances of on-screen couple Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate. Jenna Fischer, who is so great as Pam on “The Office,” really needs to find better film roles. Ultimately, the film doesn’t hold water, and it’s more of a disappointing, frustrating, uncomfortable waste of time than a genuinely engaging comedy.


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