Movie Review - Hall Pass
I am certainly not a fan of the Farrelly brothers, but the reviews for this movie have not been good, and I have to admit that I don't agree with anyone who might come down harshly on this film. I do have mixed feelings about it and ultimately the decisive factor for me is that I didn't find this comedy particularly funny. It was amusing and occasionally interesting, but I recall only laughing once.
Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis star as two married men who despite being in their 30s or 40s still think and at times act like horny teenagers. Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate play their wives respectively. During a hidden camera scene, which yieled the only laugh out loud moment, the wives realize the horniness of their husbands is too much for them to handle. Therefore, the wives give the guys a week off from marriage, so they can have sex with any girl or girls that they want with no guilt.
The dynamic between Wilson and Sudeikis here is very similar to the relationship to Wilson and Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers (2005). The arc that Wilson goes through is almost the exact opposite. I didn't appreciate Wilson in Wedding Crashers but I did appreciate him in this. Sudeikis' role is very much analagous to Vaughn's. Sudeikis, however, isn't as aggressive or as sardonic. Sudeikis is actually way more personable in that he smiles more than Vaughn did or does. Sudeikis is certainly more loveable. It's just sad that in the end Vaughn was and probably is funnier. Despite not liking Vaughn's character, he did make me laugh more than Sudeikis does here.
The problem comes with the writing. Like most Hollywood romantic comedies of the past decade, this one is built on a rather ridiculous premise, ridiculous because the conditions that lead to it aren't sufficient to make the case. Ultimately, the whole thing loses credibility and believability simply because there's not a proper foundation for it to stand.
Wilson's character of Rick tries to have sex with Fischer's character, Maggie. She doesn't outright say no, but she does deny him sex. She even fakes being asleep to get out of having sex with her husband. The so-called hall pass is to allow her horny husband to have sex, but that solution is far fetched, when the problem could have easily been solved if she simply had sex with her husband more times than never.
Yes, it's a generality, but many people say that sex dies in marriage because of kids or whatever. It's cliche. It's almost a joke itself, but it's a joke that falls flat here because no solid reason is given for Maggie's physical disconnect. She overhears him talking about having an affair. She takes it so seriously, despite the tone of it being exactly opposite. It's as if she doesn't know her husband at all, which would have been a good issue for this movie to explore, but unfortunately here it's pointless. Exploring the issue of desire versus duty would have been a good issue too, but again here it's pointless.
Getting to know Wilson's character as he experiences this hall pass is something that we could have taken away, but the events that occur are seemingly wasteful because the truth about Wilson's character is apparent. There really isn't much to be learned. It's admirable, however, that he does stay true and that his character is consistent and reliable.
All of this would have been fine. What sinks this endeavor is the gags are lame and just not funny. A group of guys get high on marijuana and act up. Corny pickup lines are received with blank stares from women. There are a couple of raunchy things, both that involve human feces. It's more gross than funny, which I suppose is a hallmark for the Farrellys. It all just feels tired.
One raunchy joke that I have to spoil is the jacuzzi or hot tub scene where Wilson's character is saved from drowning by two naked men. One guy is black and the other is white. The gag is Wilson's head lies on the black guy's thigh in full view of his penis, which is significantly huge. Wilson asks to lay next to the white guy whose penis is also in full view but is significantly microscopic.
It's such an obvious gag that it was nowhere near funny. If the penis sizes had been reversed, then maybe it would have worked. It perhaps was meant to be shocking, but the Farrellys already had the zipper scene in There's Something About Mary (1998). They should know better than anyone that it's not enough merely to show us a penis. We've gotten enough of that just over the past five years. Check out Borat (2006), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2009), The Hangover (2009), Observe and Report (2009) and Bruno (2010). All those movies have proven that flashing a penis can be shocking, but if that's all you're doing, then it's truly just gratuitous and not funny.
Finally, while I love Joy Behar, her role would have been better if Kathy Griffin had played it. Griffin is used as a punchline at the end, but I think Griffin could have sold the idea of the hall pass better than Behar. The final joke involving Stephen Merchant imagining a scenario wherein his character gets a hall pass made up slightly for the film's lackluster.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for crude humor, language, graphic nudity and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.