HALL PASS

Reviewed by GREG KING

Directors: Peter and Bobby Farrelly

Stars: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Merchant, Nicky Whelan, Derek Waters.

Peter and Bobby Farrelly are known for their mix of raunchy adult comedy and a rather sweet nature that tempers some of their more gross out moments. They hit a creative peak and pushed the envelope with films like There’s Something About Mary, with its famous hair gel scene. But it seems that most of their subsequent films have lacked that same spark. When they try too hard, as with their last film the uneven and unnecessarily cruel The Heartbreak Kid, the results are disappointing. And lately their preferred oeuvre has been hijacked by the likes of Todd Phillips (The Hangover, etc) and Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, etc). Hall Pass is the latest adolescent male fantasy from these film making siblings, but it is far from their best work.

Fred (SNL alumnus Jason Sudeikis) and Rick (Owen Wilson) are two married middle-aged men with a wandering eye and a penchant for checking out any beautiful woman that catches their eye, much to the chagrin of their wives. On the advice of a psychologist friend, their wives reluctantly decide to give the boys a “hall pass”, allowing them a week off marriage to indulge their wildest fantasies. It is hoped that this experience will give them a greater appreciation of married life.

But things don’t turn out as the boys had hoped. While out for a night at nightclubs and discos they reveal their cluelessness. They show how out of touch they are with the single scene, especially when they try out some of their “choice” pick up lines. The boys spend most of the week playing golf, and eating out at Applebees rather than indulging in one-night stands.

Meanwhile Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) head off to a holiday cottage in Cape Cod for the week. They also face temptation in the form of a handsome baseball player and a coach who shows a great interest in Maggie.

Despite several gross out moments the film offers strong support to the notion of marriage and monogamous relationships, and its conservative outlook may be a reflection of the film makers reaching fifty. There are quite a few laughs, but the very busy and over the top climax ventures into territory occupied by the superior The Hangover. There’s also a clever running gag throughout the film that uses the iconic Law & Order signature tune for laughs.

The performances of a solid cast vary. Wilson has an amiable presence, which is put to good use as the nerdy Rick. But like most graduates from the Saturday Night Live  comedy stable, Sudeikis goes all out in a performance that throws caution to the winds and lacks any subtlety. Richard Jenkins seems embarrassed in his small role as an older Lothario, who gives some tips to our boys. Nonetheless his presence adds a touch of class to the material.

Stephen Merchant gets most of the good laughs as the effete, anal Englishman, and he appears in a wonderful post-credit sequence. Aussie actress Nicky Whelan is solid as Leigh, a gorgeous barrista with whom Rick flirts and develops a crush. Derek Waters is over the top and manic as Leigh’s obsessed and crazy colleague who proves to be quite psychotic.

With its broad mix of scatological humour, toilet gags, masturbation and gratuitous nudity, Hall Pass will certainly appeal to adolescent males.

★★

 

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