The tough truth is that the best part of going to see “Hall Pass” has absolutely nothing to do with the Farrelly brothers’ movie.
Did you know that “The Hangover 2” trailer is attached to the film? That’s undoubtedly the best part. Otherwise, the film is a sincere disappointment, one of those rare films that generates zero laughs. OK, two – I counted.
For the most part, “Hall Pass” is a shadow of Bobby and Peter Farrellys’ previous work, which includes films like “Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary” and “Shallow Hal.” All those had your typically shallow male characters, obsessed with sex and barely anything else, as well as a variety of dirty potty humor, with lots of cursing and lewdness. But while “Hall Pass” has all those things, we’ve seen it all before, and done far better. The Farrelly brothers need a new formula, and fast.
Because until then, “Hall Pass” is severely lacking. Starring Owen Wilson, whose heyday for these kinds of films has passed, and Jason Sudeikis, who provides some of the film’s only laughs, the film paints the two as bored, burnt-out, woefully average married guys who still care for their wives but have adapted to lives without sex or passion. So Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis) get their kicks from checking out other women in front of their respective wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), and thinking about all the hot babes they could get if Maggie and Grace weren’t in the picture. No matter that they’re severely out of shape and lacking any fashion sense – the ladies would come knocking if they were single, of course.
And while Maggie and Grace are offended by their husbands’ eyes for others, they’re similarly unhappy, pretending to be asleep to get out of having sex. With the encouragement of a neighbor, Dr. Lucy (Joy Behar), they decide to let Rick and Fred have a “hall pass,” or a week off from marriage to do whatever they want. Convinced that Rick and Fred are too pathetic and lazy to actually get any women, Maggie and Grace jet off to Maggie’s parents’ summer home, leaving the men to their shenanigans. Rick and Fred have seven days to cheat – and so do Maggie and Grace.
But while the women enjoy themselves, filling their days with watching baseball games and hanging out at the beach, Rick and Fred are far lamer, instead filling their hours at family dining restaurants, where they pig out on disgusting food, or on golf courses, where they get high and anger the course’s employees. As the week dwindles by, Rick and Fred wonder whether they actually will cheat on their wives, or if they even want to. Are they actually unhappy, or just stuck in a relationship rut? And either way, how will sleeping with another woman actually fix those problems?
“Hall Pass” wants to offer sentimental answers to those questions, and eventually the film does. Before the clichéd, treacle-y ending, the Farrelly brothers want to make sure you’re utterly grossed out: the guys eat too much, they talk about feces too much, they watch too much porn, they hit on too many women. Rick tries to work out, but instead wakes up after passing out in the hot tub to two naked men, their genitalia swinging in his face. Fred tries to soothe a woman who says she’s going to throw up, but instead nastiness comes out of her other end. They’re the kind of jokes or situations that would have been hilarious about 20 years ago, when the Farrelly brothers started making films, but in a post-“Jackass” world, none of this is too funny or too surprising. Steve-O, Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera have perfected nudity and defecation for laughs, and the Farrelly brothers aren’t doing anything new here.
The story is believable at times, which may be its only saving grace. It’s all-too-understandable that married men would be convinced they could easily pick up with women with cheesy lines (and one of the film’s best scenes is when Sudeikis as Fred constantly strikes out when trying to take a woman home) and that they would be shocked when abashed. It’s also sadly realistic when Fred tells Rick that it’s his “dream” to be able to cheat on his wife, and that he should be able to do so because he gave her what she longed for, in the form of a house and children. In the men’s rejection, the film excels. But some of the film’s elements that are meant to be hilarious are too unfeasible, like when Rick’s babysitter and local coffeeshop barista both find his paunchy, pale self undeniably attractive, or when their friend Coakley (Richard Jenkins) can somehow identify that a woman is ready for sex by saying she’s a former smoker with a sandwich in her bag. What?
Since “Hall Pass” is rated R and is often quite misogynistic, the film is probably best for older teens going with parents who remember the Farrelly brothers’ previous successes. There’s cursing, nudity in the form of some breasts and two penises, drug use, jokes about feces and actual feces, vomit, masturbation, oral sex and lots of discussion about cheating and its moral ramifications. It’s a dirty, silly comedy, so everything you would expect from that genre is here.
But for two men who helped define and create that style, the Farrelly brothers can’t get it right with “Hall Pass.” Maybe it’s finally time to grow up.