Hall cringe and no humour
Farrellys’ new buddy movie lacks credibility “Half-hearted soul searching” “Artless schmucks”
THERE was undeniably something about Mary back in 1998. That was when writerdirectors Bobby and Peter Farrelly stamped Ben Stiller’s credentials as a leading man. Neither of the buddy comedies they made before this signature film, nor any they have made since, have combined their trademark recipe of slapstick, heartwarming romance and toilet humour with such crowdpleasing abandon. Seemingly, the siblings peaked with their third film. Their new pottymouthed battle of the sexes, Hall Pass, takes an off-kilter premise – two wives grant their men a week’s grace from marriage to sleep with as many women as they want – as the starting point for 105 minutes of halfhearted soul searching and vulgarity. Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) are sick and tired of their husbands Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) ogling other women and behaving like idiots. So at the suggestion of their friend Dr Lucy (Joy Behar), an advocate of reactance theory – the notion that if you limit someone’s choices, they will rebel and choose what they cannot have – the women grant their spouses “hall passes” for one week. Rick and Fred hit the town with pals Gary (Stephen Merchant), Hog Head (Larry Joe Campbell) and Flats (JB Smoove) in tow. Meanwhile, Maggie and Grace leave town with the children and babysitter Paige (Alexandra Daddario), and find some pleasing distractions of their own: namely college baseball coach Rick (Bruce Thomas) and big-hitting protege, Gerry (Tyler Hoechlin). Hall Pass boasts a couple of hearty guffaws, one involving a bloated clubber, the other an obvious set-up involving a husband being caught in a compromising position by the police. For the most part, our response to the script and to Wilson and Sudeikis is weak smiles. Despite prominent placing in TV ads and on posters, Merchant features only fleetingly and is completely sidelined from the second half of the film, re-appearing during the end credits. Thank goodness for Fischer and Applegate, who are luminous and sweeten this otherwise bitter and twisted pill. Like the relationship comedy The Dilemma, Hall Pass suffers from a major credibility problem with the pairings of the central characters. The men are artless, unsympathetic schmucks,
who have somehow managed to walk down the aisle with intelligent, feisty and sexy women. It’s no wonder that the male characters end the film on an emotional high, realising how lucky they are to have such amazing wives. We feel a twinge of hope that all of the emotional upheaval will compel the women to make appointments with a divorce lawyer. Now that would be a happy ending to cheer about.
PALS: Jason Sudeikis, left, and Owen Wilson.
COUPLES: From left, Jenna Fischer, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate.
WEAK SCRIPT: One of the scenes from Hall Pass.