Hall Pass show the Farrelly Brothers in mid-season form

Hall Pass – 2011

Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudekis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Joy Behar, Alexandria Daddario, Nicky Whelan, J.B. Smoove, Richard Jenkins, Larry Joe Campbell

Written by The Farrelly Brothers, Pete Jones, Kevin Barnett

The Farrelly Brothers made a huge impact in 1994 with Dumb and Dumber.  After Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary, they had changed the face of comedy, for better or worse.  Family comedies like The Flintstones, The Air Up There, Angels In The Outfield and Ernest Goes To School were replaced by more brazen stuff.  And if it still rarely reached the status of brilliant very often, it still gave American men a reason to go out to the movies for more than action movies.  Their career has been somewhat varied since …Mary, but, overall, the brothers consistently put up a cavalcade of ridiculous characters to support their lovelorn idiot leads in the most awkward of ways.  Hall Pass is no exception, in either brilliance or ineptitude.

When I first watched the trailer, there was not much there to show me that this was anything special.  Plenty of hugging, plenty of learning is what it looked like, to put it in the phrasing of Larry David.  It wasn’t until the credits rolled at the start of the movie that I discovered they directed it.  I guess they are not flying too high above the radar, or I am just so far below it that…you know.

The Farrelly’s are the best thing that could have happened to this film.  The material, a week-long allowance for two middle-aged married men to be “not married,” had “hugging and learning” all over it.  Thankfully, that’s not the case.  Instead, what we get is a series of memorable characters, who come in and out of the story, never to stay too long.  In particular, Richard Jenkins as Coakley has many memorable lines, but doesn’t even arrive until 3/4 of the film has passed.  J.B. Smoove is almost criminally underused, but it’s okay, because he’s surrounded by even more standout players, like Campbell’s Hog Head.

Wilson and Fischer make a decent couple, but the home and family life scenes only server as a vehicle for an example of what is wrong with their lives.  Fischer seems to light up in their time apart, whereas Wilson continues an almost unbelievable (by day 5) run of ineptitude.  This is accompanied by an even more pathetic turn by Sudekis.  Their continual failure in light of the success of their spouses is a bit of an obvious turn, but it is better than the alternative.

Overall, this is an average Farrelly Brothers film.  Better than it would have been in the hands of just about any other comedy director, it still has too far to reach in the story department to be considered anything more.  The problem is, they made their own bed, but now it feels like they are sleeping in someone else’s house.

(*** out of *****)




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