Men in relationships have a delusional part of our brains that for eons have been brilliantly exploited by waitresses for tips. Completely ignoring our personal history of lonely nights, this hunk of gray matter convinces us that were we to suddenly find ourselves single we would need a moat and several hundred teargas grenades to fend of the hordes of single women that would be beating down our door.
Two married men putting this far-flung and deeply ingrained fantasy to the test is the foundation of the hit-and-miss comedy “Hall Pass.”
The movie was directed by the Farrelly Brothers who began their career with three masterpieces of raunchy, low-brow comedy (“Dumb and Dumber,” “Kingpin,” and “There’s Something About Mary”).
Since then they have primarily wallowed in mediocrity, although I must admit with very faint praise, that “Hall Pass” is one of their better movies in a while.
The strength of the movie lies in its cast. Our average, married joes who are given a one-week break (or “hall pass”) from marriage are Rick, played by Owen Wilson and Fred, played by “Saturday Night Live’s” Jason Sudeikis.
Here Wilson does his thing as the straight-laced, slightly clueless Rick, and by now you either find him funny or you don’t. The real star of the movie winds up being Sudeikis, whose sweetly id-driven take on Fred winds up scoring most of the movies biggest laughs, including ending the movie on one of the greatest cut-to-credit jokes ever. Sudeikis is destined for bigger and better things.
Rick’s wife Maggie and Fred’s wife Grace are played respectively by the equally lovely and talented Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate.
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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvqbOPX3wBs[/youtube]Why, you might ask, would these women be willing to set their husbands free out into the wild to cavort with any woman they please? The reasoning is pretty straightforward, with the idea being that once their hubbies realize they aren’t the hot commodities they thought they were, they will see the error in their ways and return even more devoted and dedicated to their marriages.
While the reasoning is sound, it’s the motivation behind the reasoning that is shaky at best. Typically with a Farrelly Brothers comedy, breaking down character motivation is nit-picky even for the most self-important of movie critics. But this is the driving force behind the entire premise of the movie, so take cover nits, because you are about to be picked.
First of all, Rick and Fred don’t seem all that miserable. They seem a little bored and restless, but that’s more about being middle-aged than craving infidelity.
And what about their wives, what do they perceive as the need to take such drastic steps? Well, their loyal and faithful husbands think about sex a lot and will, on occasion, clumsily check out other women. How can such charming and intelligent women not realize this is the condition of 99.8 percent of heterosexual men in the universe?
This is why for the rest of the movie as we see two guys attempt to revel in something they neither asked for nor really need, the payoff for all of the zany misadventures and comeuppance that follows never really rings true.
This becomes even more problematic when the movie tries to make some grand point about relationships when it was never entirely clear what the heck was going on in the first place.
The movie is most comfortable when it is simply trying to make us laugh and the degree of success it achieves is dependent on the inclinations of your own sense of humor.
The Farrelly Brothers’ trademark outrageousness seems to have tempered over the years, with a few explosive exceptions. Most of the bits are woefully cliché (the guys get high on pot brownies, the guys strike out in a singles bar, etc.) and when a Richard Jenkins cameo as a pushing-60 ladies man never really pays off, you know your movie is having problems.
“Hall Pass” has a lot going for it, from a funny cast to an interesting premise, but it never really comes together which winds up making it more disappointing than anything else.
“Hall Pass” is rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use.