Sunday, 13 March 2011

Film #30 Hall Pass

In which the Farrelly brothers return with another big screen comedy and attempt to revive the kind of popular success associated with their earlier work, such as Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary. Do they succeed? No. Why not? That's what the review's for, silly - read on:

In another example of the growing "see the trailer, see the movie" phenomenon it hardly seems worth mentioning the plot, but here goes: Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play middle-class married men entering middle age with little grace (think short-sleeved shirt with tie). Caught out one too many times engaging in sexualised banter and/or perving on younger women, their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) grant them a 'hall pass' - meaning they are both given a week off from marriage and allowed to sleep with as many women as they want, thus getting the sexual frustration out of their system and therefore permitting happy marriage to resume. And, the audience is to hope, hilarity ensues.

But it doesn't - or not really, anyway.  Around twenty minutes in, things become promising with the introduction of a motley crew of mates (including J.B. Smoove - Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm - and the estimable Steven Merchant, bringing a Fishponds brogue to Providence, R.I.). "Hey ho" you think "we'll get some laughs now", and we do - for about twenty minutes, after which, inexplicably, all of the actually funny characters exeunt, leaving us with The Brothers McDull for pretty much the rest of the film. And this is the problem - watching a bunch of slightly useless men doing silly things has a long comedic pedigree and can be very entertaining - but watching two men be pathetic around young women just makes me feel a bit queasy, not mention slightly ashamed at the predictability of the male libido.

And this is very male film, to a depressing degree. Applegate and Fischer gamely do their best with the flat roles they're given, but almost every other woman in the film is T&A on a stick and serves no purpose other than as a sex object. Up to a point, and in the right comedic context (i.e. a knowing one) that can be OK - but Hall Pass is nowhere near funny enough to get away with it. Then we get a half-arsed attempt at genuine emotional depth which fails utterly after all the knockabout silliness earlier on (cf. The Dilemma for an even worse attempt at this).

The cast? Owen Wilson we all know and love and can forgive this kind of bill-paying nonsense in the hope that somewhere down the line we'll get another Royal Tenenbaums. Jason Sudeikis on the other hand is a Saturday Night Live alumnus, one of those terminally unfunny comedy 'stars' that America periodically unleashes on the world, like teenybopper sensations or pre-emptive warfare (and almost as unwelcome).

I've mentioned the support already (and we do get a Stephen Merchant reprise at the end which I won't spoil - but make sure you don't walk out the second the credits start rolling or you'll miss the funniest thing in the whole film), and both they and the two female co-stars are the film's high points. But they can't save it.

It's not the worst film I've seen this year, and some of the gags do work out, but it's nowhere near as funny as it should have been. And it's too long.


  1. Most everything I've read about this film has been negative...which makes me sad. I was so excited for this film- the commercial had me doubling over- that I was expecting some sort of side-splitting comedy a la The Hangover. I never got around to seeing it (I rarely go to the movies), but I've pretty much gotten the gist from reviews like yours (your review was great by the way!) that it's not going to live up to my expectations.

  2. Thanks for that compliment! Yes, not a great film, really, and most of the best jokes are in the trailer. Still, Stepehen Merchant was very funny.

  3. Definitely agree, this should have been funnier. Stephen Merchant just couldn't save it.

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