Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Release Review: Hall Pass (Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 2011)

I had not intentionally gone to my local cinema this evening to watch the new Farrelly Brothers comedy, but to watch The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest instead. But, sure enough, about fifteen minutes into what seemed set to be a dull and boring film anyway, the projector did something crazy and the session was canceled. I decided to stick around and see the only other film yet to start...Hall Pass. Here are my thoughts.

Hall Pass, the new comedy directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly (There's Something About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene) was not nearly as awful as I expected it to be. Having said that, it's certainly not great. As a fairly thin premise to begin with, it completely failed to fill 90 minutes, and it was unfortunate that the audience has to sit through so many unnecessary side plot lines, that served little more than ridiculous gross-out gags. The gist of the story is this. Best friends Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) share a lot in common, including marriage to their wives Maggie and Grace (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) for many years. Both marriages are experiencing a growth in distance, as the men begin to show restlessness at home. Not content to be deprived of sex, Fred takes his self pleasures to his vehicle, while Rick's obvious desire for other women has left his wife Maggie frustrated. In a bold attempt to revitalize their marriages they grant their husbands a Hall Pass --- a week of freedom from marriage with no questions asked. They suddenly find themselves uninhibited to pick up all the hot chicks they have been repeatedly goggling. Rick is hesitant at first to embark on such a drastic lifestyle change, while Fred embraces it with enthusiasm. Both men soon discover that their expectations for success aren't in tune with their reality. So convinced that they can transform themselves into single studs, they face a huge shock. The film plays out over the period of a week, with each day documented by a simple Day 1, Day 2 etc. Like all Farrelly Brothers' comedies there are a host of penis, vagina and poo jokes, and includes a bunch of colorful characters that pop up during the fun. Hall Pass, mostly through Sudeikis, certainly has its moments and ample enough hysterical laughs to leave me feeling more than a little guilty.

Stephen Merchant (Co-creator of The Office) and J.B Smoove (the always-memorable Leon Black from Curb Your Enthusiasm) were severely underused as two of the ragtag buddies who start out the week accompanying Rick and Fred to witness their endless torment and rejection. The troupe's misadventures include a night out at a family-friendly rib joint, and a marijuana-affected golf outing. While Fred makes it his goal to get laid in any way possible (horrendous pick-up lines and mortifying embarrassment ensues), Rick sets his eyes on sexy Australian barista (Nicky Whelan) who he befriends and runs into on several occasions. The highlight of the film is certainly her 20 seconds of fame near the conclusion. After countless disappointments and failures, and when all hope seems lost, along comes their master womanizer, returned from Iceland, Coakley (Richard Jenkins). I found his cameo to be great. What can't and won't the man do? The events culminate in a nightclub/party sequence where the men seem to finally have found their suitors. Maggie and Grace have their share of the screen time too, and find their escape from their immature husbands to bring their own unexpected pleasures. They each find alternative suitors and are tempted to act on their own Hall Pass freedom. The wackiness of the final twenty minutes will be too much for some though.

This is pretty ordinary, lowbrow stuff and certainly not worth the price of admission these days. Gross-out, immature male comedies starring some arrangement of Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell (to name a few) come out seemingly every month, and get pretty tiresome. There is a moving quality to Hall Pass, the recaptured respect for their marriage and their lovely wives, that gives it a redeeming factor after the ordeal of fart and masturbation jokes. I would have rather seen more of Rick and Fred's buddies than another scene involving the nanny or the barista/DJ rival (terrible!). Wilson and Sudeikis are likable enough, Jenna Fischer looks gorgeous, and Richard Jenkins pulls off the best cameo. Overall, this is a very predictable guy comedy that will forever be lost amongst the countless variations of the same idea currently being pitched, but on a night where I had nowhere else to turn, it kept me moderately entertained. Fans of the Farrelly's work like Dumb and Dumber, or perhaps last years Date Night will find enjoyment here.

My Rating: 2 Stars (D+)  


  1. I'm an avid follower of Farrelly Brothers comedies because I think they all get a bad rep. ever since There's Something About Mary. I liked this because it was a nice return-to-form for them after that disastrous The Heartbreak Kid crap. Though it could have been better, I still had a good time here. Good Review!

  2. Hmm I have liked Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene, but not much else of their stuff. I haven't seen The Heartbreak Kid, but it looked pretty awful. I had a better time than I expected, but, yeah, could have been much better.