To say that I was pleasantly surprised by Hall Pass would be an understatement. I had months ago vowed to never again waste time watching a Farrelly Brothers movie. I was one of the few people who didn’t like There’s Something About Mary and Shallow Hal is one of the few movies I’ve ever walked out of, and not out of indignance like some people but simply out of boredom. A lot of their movies seem like Mad TV or SNL skits that are stricken with elephantiasis, but this is forgiveable. Then, I made the horrible mistake of watching The Heartbreak Kid. That’s one of my all-time least favorite films. So you can understand that as soon as I found out the Farrelly Brothers were attached to Hall Pass, I had to tell myself no, which was particularly hard because a lot of stars I like are in it.
Then, not so long ago, some friends of mine talked me into watching it, and, to my surprise, it wasn’t bad. Maybe not excellent, but the film had a certain charm to it.
The premise is basically that Maggie (played by Jenna Fischer, Pam from The Office) grows tired of seeing her husband Rick (played by Owen Wilson, recently in Midnight in Paris) ogle other women, so, instead of nagging him, she gives him a “hall pass,” effectively saying that he has one week where he can pretend he’s not married, and thus sow some of his wild oats. Then, Rick’s best buddy Fred (Jason Sudeikis, from SNL) gets a similar deal from his wife, and off they go, scouting for women like college jocks.
The cast is rounded out with a few more comedic actors you’ll likely recognize. For instance, Larry Joe Campbell plays a guy who’s only credited as “Hog-head,” and you might remember him from According to Jim. Stephen Merchant plays the twee English friend, which creates a funny bit of trivia, since the film stars one member from the American version of The Office–Jenna Fischer–and a member from the British office–Stephen Merchant. My favorite actor in this whole ensemble cast would have to be JB Smoove, although he’s not in this enough. Anyone who watches Curb Your Enthusiasm probably loves JB Smoove. The guy also steals the show in his cameo in Date Night.
What’s refreshing about Hall Pass is that much of the comedy’s droll, and many of the best lines seem like throwaways, like when Fred says a girl looks like the “chief from Cuckoo’s Nest.” There’s only a few instances where the Farrelly’s use their signature gross-out gags, sometimes to funny effect. These gags are a bit inconsistent with the rest of the film. I do applaud this film for at least using several different types of comedy, from wordplay to sight gags.
So it’s not a perfect film, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s a good movie to have a few beers with or maybe watch with friends when you’re in a low-brow mood, but don’t expect much in line of intellectual pleasure. I’d sooner recommend you watch Midnight in Paris or Cedar Rapids.
SPOILER–My main complaint with Hall Pass is that I don’t think they took the premise far enough. I think within the first half-hour, the viewer will be able to guess how it’ll end. I’m sure some people will find the premise of a wife allowing her husband carte blanche will strike some viewers as abhorrent, but I think the film would have been more interesting had more been done with it. For instance, the Billy Wilder film Kiss Me Stupid works off a similar premise, but lets the characters indulge their temptations more before being inexorably drawn back to their happy home.
Also, I wish Jenna Fischer’s character would have been allowed to do comedic scenes instead of mostly dramatic ones. I thought she was really funny in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and find it unfortunate she hasn’t had a chance to let loose comedically since.
What was your opinion of Hall Pass?