Hall cringe and no hu­mour

Far­rellys’ new buddy movie lacks cred­i­bil­ity “Half-hearted soul search­ing” “Art­less sch­mucks”

Evening Express (City Final) - The Guide - - BIG SCREEN - By Da­mon Smith

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.

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