Review by Jack Foley
TO describe Hall Pass as an improvement on the last few Farrelly brothers films (The Heartbreak Kid, The Ringer) is damning it with faint praise. It’s still a sorry excuse for a comedy that squanders a potentially interesting premise.
The hall pass of the title relates to an American term, or idea, that enables husbands and wives to take a holiday from their marriage so that they can relive past glories and sew more wild oats.
Hence, under the terms of Bobby and Peter Farrellys’ latest Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play, respectively, Rick and Fred, two husbands with roving eyes whose wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) decide enough is enough and give them the hall pass in question.
They therefore spend the rest of the movie attempting to get laid while, inevitably, learning the value of home life and family.
Admittedly, there is probably some mileage to be gained from the idea of examining the psychological make-up of mid-life marriage and its stresses and strains, but this comedy vehicle simply isn’t it.
Rather than opting for any really intelligent observations, the Farrellys opt for their trademark blend of ridiculous scenarios, outrageous characters (or freaks) and juvenile, crass humour.
Hence, gags here revolve around a best friend who constantly needs to poo, a bloated potential ‘lay’ who sneezes and poops at the same time and a psychologically deranged coffee shop worker who turns violent when the object of his affections appears to be veering away from him.
Far from being even remotely funny, however, the scenarios either conform to the obvious or severely strained.
Where once the brothers were genre-baiting trend-setters (Dumb & Dumber/There’s Something About Mary), they now found themselves attempting unsuccessfully to keep up with the pack… as Hall Pass lacks neither the hilarious lunacy of Todd Phillips (and The Hangover) or the ability to mix crudeness with likeability (Judd Apatow or even Ivan Reitman).
As a result, his engaging cast is left as naked and vulnerable as their characters at times.
Wilson remains endearing but seems to be on auto-pilot, Sudeikis is pained and painful to watch, Fischer and Applegate struggle to rise above their female stereotypes and even Richard Jenkins is made to look desperate in his bid to find laughs.
Neither of the sexes come out particularly well: with the men either egotistical chauvanists heading for a fall or the women sympathetic, neurotic or hungry to indulge in the fantasies of the men – an unlikely scenario that renders token movie hottie Nicky Whelan as one dimensional (albeit buxom) as they come.
At almost two hours, the film also tests the patience (severely), meaning that even the goodwill you may feel towards some of the more recognisable cast members (Stephen Merchant included) will be sorely tested by the bum-numbing end.
It’s better just to rediscover an early Farrelly brothers classic and give this movie a hall pass instead.
Running time: 108mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: July 4, 2011