Friday, February 25, 2011

Hall Pass

Apparently all men who have been married for any length of time think that they were super-studs in their single lives, and could be again if just given the chance (for the record, I have no illusions about this), so what if a couple of married guys barreling towards middle-age were given one week to regain their single glory? Could they do it, and when it comes down to it, would they? This is the premise for the new Farrelly brothers movie “Hall Pass”.

Rick (Owen Wilson: “The Darjeeling Limited”) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis: “Going the Distance”, “30 Rock”) are just a couple of average married guys; they love their wives, but that doesn't mean they don't enjoy the female scenery around them. Unfortunately they both have a serious problem with telling when they are being observed. Fred's wife, Grace (Christina Applegate: “Going the Distance”, “Married... With Children”), accepts this because she views her husband as far too pathetic to ever be able to do anything but look, but Rick's wife, Maggie (Jenna Fischer: “The Office”) is becoming increasingly worried.

After being caught mocking their hosts at a friend's housewarming party, Maggie gives in and takes the advice of a friend of hers who had similar issues (Joy Behar: “The View”). She packs up herself and the kids, and gives Rick a week of single-hood. Fred is more excited about this than Rick is initially, but Grace does not give in until her husband is caught doing something hilariously embarrassing by the police. Suddenly it's off the Maggie's parents' beach house to leave the men to their own devices for a solid week.

Free at last, the guys decide to live it up, and regain their youth, with their friends in tow living vicariously through them. Of course things do not go as planned, and the guys find that it is a lot harder to pick up women than they imagine that it used to be. By comparison, they women have no trouble flirting it up on their own week away from marriage as they socialize with the young men of a minor league baseball team. Ultimately each person has to decide how far they are willing to go, and how seriously they are going to take their “Hall Pass”.

This film has a decent cast, aside from the main stars you can also look for Stephen Merchant (“Extras”, “The Ricky Gervais Show”), Larry Joe Campbell (“According to Jim”), and J.B. Smoove (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) as Rick and Fred's married friends, and Richard Jenkins (“Six Feet Under”) as the group's rich single friend who knows all the tricks of getting with the ladies and is the envy of all of the married men. It's a strong group of actors, and they manage to not come across as fighting for screen time, nor do they overstay their welcome and become annoying.

What does become a little annoying, to me at least, is Owen Wilson's voice; he seems to spend a good part of the film whining. I know that part of this is just his voice, and part of it is the character, but it just started to annoy me after awhile. Sudeikis, on the other hand, comes across as warm and friendly to the point of being creepy at times (one of the pick up lines he uses implies that he is trying to chloroform the woman), and this may end up being a good role for him to get some more exposure as a main character instead of just being in the supporting cast.

On the women's side Applegate is essentially playing the same role she did in "Going the Distance", that of a massive ball-buster. It seems that this is going to be the role she plays from now on. Luckily she is able to take the old Kelly Bundy snark and cruelty, ratchet it up to about twelve, and aim it directly at any man who annoys her. It's a fine line to walk between being humourously mean and just being a bitch, and I think she does a good job of staying on that line most of the time.

Fischer is sort of the one oddity in the film. She is surrounded by over-the-top characters, but never really strays into that territory herself. She is the lone sane person surrounded by lunatics (even the kids get zanier dialog than she does), but she does not fade into the background as a result of it. One interesting thing about Fischer too is that they seem to have used make-up to make her look considerably older than she does in “The Office”. It's subtle most of the time, but in closer shots her face looks kind of blotchy and a little haggish, and I found this distracting because I couldn't tell if they were doing it intentionally (her character does have three children after all) or not. While this is not something important, anything that pulls you out of the story is generally not a good thing for a film to have.

I found the movie as a whole to be a little disappointing; when it's funny it's really funny, but taken as a big picture it's just rather lacking overall. In all fairness, I've never been a huge fan of the Farrelly brothers. If you really enjoyed movies like “Dumb and Dumber” or “Something About Mary” then you will probably like this too, but it does not stand as an equal to some of their earlier work. If I were to rank it with their previous films I would place it around “Shallow Hal”; strong cast, plenty to laugh at, but a rather weak premise (only a true idiot would believe there would be no consequences to taking advantage of their hall pass), and a less than satisfying overall story (especially the climax, which was entirely predictable, and felt largely thrown in just so they could end the film).

Full of jokes about jokes about masturbation and poop (and there are a lot of the latter), full frontal male nudity, and people struggling with committing adultery (although not struggling too hard), “Hall Pass” is a movie that will make you laugh out loud, but will also have you leaving the theater feeling disappointed. Unless you are a hardcore fan of the Farrelly's movies then I strongly suggest giving this movie a pass. Even if you are Farrelly Brothers fan, I would suggest just popping your copy of “Something About Mary” into the Blu-ray and watching that instead.

“Hall Pass” is in theaters now.