Mired in the middle ages
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