Hall Pass (2011)
February 25, 2011
written by: Peter & Bobby Farrelly, Pete Jones, and Kevin Barnett
produced by: Charles B. Wessler, Bradley Thomas & Benjamin Waisbren
directed by: Bobby & Peter Farrelly
rated R (for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use)
U.S. release date: February 25, 2011
Now and then, along comes a movie so awful that you wish you had a mindwipe could just take certain images away. If such a device were to extract choice visuals from “Hall Pass”, the movie would probably still be up for Most Inane Live Action Short. What could’ve been a funny and poignant look at fortysomething married life, is instead a deplorably crude and unfunny sex comedy. That’s no surprise since it’s directed by the Farrelly brothers (“There’s Something About Mary” and “Me, Myself and Irene”), who have consistently delivered gross-out films for over a decade now. While most of their fans have grown up and moved on from such juvenile antics, clearly these fiftysomething siblings have not.
Amid all the raunch, they attempt to give us a touching look at the sex wars, which only comes across pretentious and pathetic. What the world does not need now is yet another vanilla comedy where the main characters are idiotic, middle-aged man-children, who’s every thought is sex. Such a concept is nothing new, yet supposedly it’s always funny because these inane movies will continue to be made as long as audiences keep the bar on the sticky floor of the theater.
Real estate agent, Rick (Owen Wilson) and life insurance salesman Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are two clueless suburban schlubs who are coasting through their dwindling marriages. They’re too busy eye-balling other women to see it though, thinking their wives, Maggie (a flat Jenna Fischer) and Grace (a one-note Christina Applegate), aren’t on to them. Feeling taken for granted and just flat exhausted with their adolescent disillusions, the wives decide to take the advice of life coach friend (Joy Behar) and give these guys a “hall pass”. The idea is to allow them to be marriage-free for one week. Sow their wild loins in whatever carefree and guiltless act they choose. Get it (whatever it is) out of their system in order to better appreciate the life and wives they have.
And hilarity ensueth. Or, at least that’s what the Farrelly brothers want you to smack you upside the head with…..over and over again. The affable misadventures of Rick and Fred are counting off each day with the “dunt dunt” sound effect from “Law & Order”(ugh, real original) and what transpires is some of the most unfunny, dull and offensive sequence of scenes this side of Sasha Baron Cohen and Judd Apatow. The boys are vicariously followed by three friends, Hog-Head (Larry Joe Campbell, “According to Jim” fans rejoice!), Gary (Stephen Merchant, fans of “Ëxtras” hang your head low) and Flats (J.B. Smoove, probably thinking how good he has it with “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) who want to see where this hall pass will take them. Well, it takes them to Applebees where they peak at around 9:30pm, succumbing to food coma. Why, Hog-Head ate so much meat that he just had to share with everyone that he has to take a poo!
Oh, but that’s just the prime time absurdity of it all. The rest of the days in this morally hazy week is full of stupid pick-up lines and a variety of off-putting scenes. No really. I’m no prude, but seeing Owen Wilson’s face next to another man’s giant organ (yes, that one) on the big screen or witnessing a Jersey skank spray diarrhea all over a hotel shower wall, is just not my idea of funny. Nor is Sudeikis getting some quality alone time with himself in his car, while Styx’s “The Best of Times” is blaring. Shocking and degrading? Truly. But, that’s all it is though. It’s not funny because of the situation (again, that’s just shock for shock’s sake) and it’s not funny because we care about or can relate to these two idiots.
I’ll admit, I laughed during the scenes where the audience is intended to laugh, although I was equally appalled as well. More than once, I wanted to just walk out, but I suppose I wanted to see if there was a chance of redemption. Watching the movie continue though was like entering different levels of recycled depravity. Not even Oscar-nominee, Richard Jenkins as a creepy womanizer (go ahead, imagine it) complete with spray tan, could boost this movie.
The script, written by the Farrellys along with their pal, Kevin Barrett (who also worked on “Fever Pitch” and “the Heartbreak Kid”, with them), and Pete Ross (remember him from “Project Greenlight” where he went on to direct 2002’s “Stolen Summer?” Didn’t think so.) never offers anything real for the actors to work with. Okay, I realize what kind of movie this is….the kind where a grown man will squat down and take a dump in broad daylight on a golf course….but, there has to be something real, tangible, for us to hold on to. It’s saddening that they actually thought this material would be funny when they wrote this.
The sad thing is, the concept itself has potential. The idea of this “pass” is intriguing, but what are the consequences? This topic was covered in a far superior manner in last year’s “The Freebie”, where the act of infidelity has actual ramifications. Another interesting angle that comes across as heavy-handed, is when we see the wives retreat to a getaway for the week. They seem to function just fine without their men. In fact, they wind up getting more action than their husbands. That’s not unheard of but it’s no less interesting. Why couldn’t that be explored more? Because it’s not outrageous enough for this movie and for the market audience. Even knowing that, it’s hard to determine who this movie is for. Those Adam Sandler fans who saw “Just Go With It” last week, I guess.
Wilson and Sudeikis never seem to really inhabit their roles with any believability. Their lines are delivered like sketches or really weak sitcoms. I almost expected a laugh track to follow their preposterous banter. After watching this, I am now convinced that Wilson is at his best when teamed with Wes Anderson. Any other predictable rom-com or repetitive comedy he winds up in, is just painful to watch. As for Sudeikis, I really had hopes for him. Not high, just hopes. I like most of his SNL work but his Howdy Doody horndog schtick here was just disappointing. Maybe he ought to get some advice from Ed Helms and learn how to take that step from TV to the big-screen with the right material.
“Hall Pass” confirms that the formula the Farrellys have used for years has hit a wall. Like all their movies, they try for a little tenderness and warmth with this story, only for it to fall flat. The only time that worked for me was in “Dumb and Dumber” (their best movie) and that’s because Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels gave those dummies some dimension. They knew that for the audience to get behind their characters, there had to be a semblance of genuine humanity, decency present. When that is attempted in this movie, it’s insulting. The best thing to do with this hall pass is turn it into a pink slip, or better yet, play hookey.