A couple of weeks ago I used the phrase "adolescence on pause" in my review of Just Go With It to describe a particular brand of male stasis perfected in Adam Sandler comedies. Sandler is by no means the only person delving into this increasingly visible and popular genre of comedy. High-grossing raunchy blockbusters such as The Hangover and The Wedding Crashers have helped revive the R-rated movie while making it seem there is a whole nation of men who just refuse to be adults.
Add Hall Pass to the list of comedies about men embarrassing themselves.
The '70s and early '80s had plenty of these R-rated films that were perfect fits for the emerging worlds of cable television and VHS tape. In the late '80s, the films were sanitized just enough to get a PG-13 rating so more teenagers could buy tickets. The recent trend of the R-rated comedy was ushered in by the directors of Hall Pass, brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Their 1998 comedy Something About Mary basked in its vulgar glory all the way to box-office gold, helping to pave the way for future releases about randy teenagers (American Pie) or the combined efforts of R-rated maestro Judd Apatow and his protégés (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad).
Hall Pass is the Farrelly Brothers not on the top of their game, but the harsh reality is that it has been a long time since they could say that. I get the feeling that with each of these lucrative releases, the Farrellys have thought of the ways they could up the ante of males tapping into their inner teenager. The result is Hall Pass, a simplistic, unrepentant, unfunny movie that delivers more silent desperation than laughter.
The film is a tale of two marriages with wives fed up with the leering, lustful antics of their misbehaving husbands. Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) repeatedly perturb their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) with their juvenile behavior that has them unable to control their tongues and eyes as they appear to have the same opinion and attitudes of a hopped up on hormones 17 year old. Pushed to the breaking point, the wives do something desperate and give Rick and Fred a "hall pass" from marriage for a week, hoping they can find the time to grow up in the span of a week. If they haven't hit maturity by now, I doubt a few more days is going to do the trick.
The "hall pass" lets the men give in to their base instincts for seven days. Everyone in Hall Pass readily admits that men are beastly animals who can't help but act the way they do. The Farrellys proscribe to the medical theory that the testosterone flowing through the veins of males cause them to act in outlandish fashion. Ogle a woman's bosom in public? They can't help it, they are men. Inappropriately insult friends at a dinner party? Men can't be expected to hold in their opinions. Openly masturbate in your minivan on your suburban street? Only natural.
Hall Falls. A tale of two marriages, Hall Pass follows a pair of wives fed up with
the leering, lustful antics of their misbehaving husbands. Rick, played by Owen
Wilson, and Fred, played by Jason Sudeikis, repeatedly perturb their wives with
juvenile behavior that has them unable to control their tongues and eyes. Pushed to
the breaking point, the wives do something desperate and give Rick and Fred a “hall
pass” from marriage for a week, hoping they can find the time to grow up.
With the wives off with the kids, the men are free to chase women with no guilt, shame or repercussions. The trouble is they just aren't as cool or smooth as they think they are. On night one they bring a few of their male posse with them to hit Applebee's and find some willing ladies. The only thing they locate is a huge amount of food and they are in bed before 10pm. Each night they delve more into bad choices and by the end of their debauched week they will learn a lesson about how important their stable, comforting lives are to them. Now the wives, that's a different story altogether.
Hall Pass is about immature men so the jokes are just as childish. The film is chock full of an endless series of lame set-ups, ridiculous premises and unnecessary attempts to shock the audience into laughing. Expect gratuitous shots of male genitalia and poo gags that include a golf sand trap and a revolting bit of explosive "snitting" (you don't want to know). Don't expect Hall Pass to come anywhere near the notion of sophistication. The plot is flimsy and constructed in daily increments, building on zaniness as the week evolves.
Owen Wilson is not someone I find all that funny, but the other people in the cast are worth watching if given the right material. Applegate has unfailing timing and unfortunately hasn't become the leading actress in either film or TV that her talent deserves. Sudeikis is a humorous guy trying to make the leap from Saturday Night Live to film, but too often in Hall Pass he's forcing it. His performance would have been funnier had he slowed down and been a bit more naturalistic rather than embrace the manic, sketch-comedy style he has yet to let go of.
No amount of funny people in the cast can raise the script of Hall Pass out of the depths that it sinks to. It's just not good. Four people had a hand in it (usually a bad sign) and it has the mashed together feel of something that has been worked and re-worked so many times that all the energy and originality has been stripped from its content. There is no charm, wit or intelligence in these men and only in "movie world" would women put up with husbands who act like this or give out a "hall pass."
Like them or loathe them, these comedies are here to stay until they stop making the studios money. That's OK with me, as long as they make me laugh. Hall Pass didn't do that. Always going for the cheap laugh, Hall Pass comes off as a desperate attempt by filmmakers wanting to make a quick buck on their reputation rather than craft a movie with genuine funny moments.
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