Mired in the mid­dle ages

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

ALL RIGHT. The game is up. Time for the Far­relly brothers to pack up their rank ef­fu­sions and sink into the bog from which they emerged.

For a brief mo­ment – with the dual suc­cess of King­pin and There’s Some­thing About Mary – the boys came across like bud­ding comic ge­niuses. Since then, worse things than in­dul­gent ex­cess have un­der­mined their smelly aes­thetic: mid­dle-age, con­form­ity, lazi­ness. Ma­tu­rity sits well with the lit­er­ary nov­el­ist or the gnarled char­ac­ter ac­tor. It can, how­ever, be dis­as­trous for the low­brow hu­morist.

The Far­rellys’ lat­est com­edy stars Owen Wil­son and Ja­son Sudeikis as two bud­dies deal­ing badly with the set­tled life. Both ogle women in­ces­santly. Nei­ther has man­aged to main­tain sparky re­la­tions with his pre­dictably long-suf­fer­ing wife.

Worse still, they no longer


prop­erly con­nect with youth cul­ture. While buy­ing his cof­fee from an at­trac­tive Aus­tralian barista, Wil­son fails to recog­nise the hip sounds of the dan­ger­ously edgy Snow Pa­trol. (Note to Far­rellys: in any pub­lic space, the fret­ting mid­dleaged man is the per­son most likely to iden­tify that melodic North­ern Ir­ish band.)

Fol­low­ing var­i­ous un­likely cir­cum­stances, the wives, frus­trated at their part­ners’ use­less­ness, al­low the boys a “hall pass” for one week. That is to say, dur­ing the pe­riod of re­lease, they can be­have as if they are sin­gle. You hardly need to be told that the chaps’ at­tempts to se­duce the lo­cal hot­ties fail mis­er­ably and that they even­tu­ally come to ap­pre­ci­ate the women in their lives.

The Far­rellys have al­ways been un­apolo­get­i­cally soppy film-mak­ers. But Hall Pass re­veals a taste for sub­ur­ban or­tho­doxy that ren­ders the com­edy suf­fo­cat­ingly flat. To be fair, whereas Judd Apa­tow’s rev­el­ling in spoil­sport fe­male sour­ness and free-wheel­ing male dis­so­lute­ness speaks of la­tent misog­yny, Hall Pass doesn’t seem to find the heroes’ lame ban­ter in any way amus­ing. Sadly, this ap­proach leaves us with a com­edy that too of­ten wags its fin­ger when it should be tick­ling our mirth glands.

It says some­thing that by far the fun­ni­est se­quence (much more amus­ing than a to­ken di­ar­rhoea gag) oc­curs over the clos­ing credit roll. Fol­low­ing Stephen Mer­chant’s de­luded fop as he imag­ines an ab­surd sub­ur­ban Göt­ter­däm­merung, the clip earns Hall Pass a grudg­ing sec­ond star.

Di­rected by Peter Far­relly, Bobby Far­relly. Star­ring Owen Wil­son, Ja­son Sudeikis, Jenna Fis­cher, Christina Ap­ple­gate, Nicky Whe­lan, Stephen Mer­chant, Richard Jenk­ins Boys will be boys: Ja­son Sudeikis in Hall Pass

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