DVD Review: Hall Pass
Those purveyors of gross-out comedies, the Farrelly brothers, have been quiet for some time. Or so you would think. They've actually released three films since their last biggish hit Shallow Hal way back in 2001, but very few will remember – or indeed would have seen - Stuck On You (2003), The Perfect Catch (2005), or The Heartbreak Kid (2007).
Audiences tastes change of course, but the fact that the brothers have grown up a bit too must be come into it. As much as the trailer would like to tease you into believing that this is classic gross-out material from the siblings, it's probably more of morality/mortality tale for middle-aged men the world over.
There's no question that Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) love their respective wives Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), but it doesn't stop them checking out other women; the guys don't think their wives notice, but they do.
Maggie decides that if it's something that Rick has to get out of his system, then she's willing to give him a hall pass for a week. This means that Rick can consider himself single for seven days and behave accordingly.
This would be quite daunting if Rick was on his own, but fortunately for Rick, Grace gives Fred the exact same offer. So now these middle-aged stud muffins have got a license to chase as much tail as they like. Meanwhile, Maggie and Grace take off for the week themselves.
As exciting as the idea of being given the freedom to do what they want from their wives is, they soon realise that the reality of the situation is something quite different. To add salt into their wounds, although their wives didn't get hall passes themselves, they find that they're getting a lot of attention from the opposite of sex during their week away.
This film could have easily gone down the route of the zany college frat film. Instead what the Farrelly brothers serve up is a cautionary tale for all men, that getting what you wish for can be a dangerous thing. In that sense it's kind of refreshing; there's an expectant air that the film would have been filled with untold inflatable breasts and awkward and inappropriate sex scenes. Instead the men are confronted by the fact that they are not the babe magnets they expected themselves to be.
That's not to say the film doesn't have its gross moments, it wouldn't really be a Farrelly film without them. The problem is, when they turn up, they feel crow-barred in to an inch of their lives; it's as if their inclusion is just to satisfy some gross quota, regardless of whether the story needs it or not. Yes they raise the odd smile, but they don't serve any purpose.
Another let down is the inclusion of our very own Stephen Merchant. The problem is, he's not in it nearly enough. His appearance is nothing more than a glorified cameo, which is a shame and a wasted opportunity for some genuine laughs.
Wilson of course delivers the goods. Does he play pretty much the same character in every film? Pretty much. But he's just so adorable, so it doesn't really matter. Sudeikis does OK, but it's the kind of interchangeable part that could have just have easily been played by Paul Ruud, Ed Helms etc. The film could have benefited more from someone like Zach Galifianakis instead.
The premise of following the embarrassing antics of a couple of middle-aged men is a good one, especially when you consider that probably a lot those who enjoyed the Farrelly's earlier work are no doubt in the same age bracket as these characters now. But the main character's reality check results in far fewer laughs than expected.
Considering the Farrelly brothers early legacy of laughs (Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and of course There's Something About Mary), this film has to be considered a disappointment. Still, if you're a fan of Owen Wilson, this mildly amusing film does just enough to merit a viewing in the comfort of your own home.
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