The Farrelly brothers Peter and Bobby have written and directed some of my favorite comedies ever, including “Dumb and Dumber,” “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary.” These guys were on a roll during the 1990s thanks to their unique brand of audacious crude humor and they even made some solid efforts during the 2000s. I think, though, that the first big nail in the coffin came in 2007 with the release of “The Heartbreak Kid,” an exceedingly offensive and excruciatingly unfunny comedy that took their uncomfortable gross-out humor to levels that most people could not gel with.
And I am afraid that their newest comedy, “Hall Pass,” does not regain the brothers’ great names from their “Heartbreak”-stimulated slump. What is worse is that the film manages to follow closely in the other’s footsteps by gratuitously forcing shock humor into scenes where it does not seem to correspond. Timing is a big thing. Whereas the ex-lax scene in “Dumb and Dumber” or the zipper gag in “Mary” are executed with flawless comedic precision and fearlessness, the scene in “Hall Pass” regarding the private activities that take place in a man’s car unfolds so unnervingly and the joke falls flat before it is even over.
An aging family man Rick (Owen Wilson) and his buddy Fred (Jason Sudeikis) find themselves in big trouble with their respective wives Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate). Both men constantly have sex on their mind, the only real blemishes in otherwise happy and successful marriages. But no matter what way the men try to hide the fact, the women see right through them. After catching them red-handed in the middle of their man conversations on two separate instances, the wives come to the settlement that the two need one full week off of marriage to get into whatever kind of trouble they can without having to pay any consequences.
This concept is referred to as a ‘hall pass’ and is meant to, in a way, revitalize a troubled marriage. If Rick and Fred are given the freedom to cause all sorts of debauchery outside the confines of marriage, there is the possibility that they can get all the sexual fantasizing out of their systems for good. Doctor Lucy (Joy Behar) is the one who recommends this extreme tactic to Maggie and Grace, stating that she and her husband’s relationship has never been stronger since the hall pass.
Excited, yet with a hint of trepidation, the two temporary bachelors endeavor to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Though it does not take long for them to recognize that they are not quite as charming and irresistible as they picture themselves in their minds. One of the best shots in the movie is when the motley crew goes to Applebee’s late at night searching for ladies. A group of forty-somethings strutting in slow motion thinking they are God’s gift to women. I think any credibility they might’ve had in the first place flew out the window simply by the fact that one of them was carrying a red umbrella.
I laughed during a few moments like this. Actually I found myself enjoying the movie for the first few minutes in the same kind of way I enjoyed “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” The fact of the matter is that a bunch of aging married men are stuck thinking they still have their youthful allure. There is a contrast captured between Rick’s family life and his life among his adult friends. The dialogue and exchanges seem to hold elements of bitter truth to real life and these scenes are somewhat pleasant to my surprise.
But by the point Rick and Fred are allowed the privilege of a hall pass for one week, I could feel that the film did not have that many ideas up its sleeves. The gags that follow range from clichéd to downright weird (and not always a GOOD kind of weird) to unimaginative. We get a pot brownie scene on a golf course, a hot tub incident that results in the largest “what just happened” moment of the whole film, a scene where Fred gets drunk and tries to take on a giant, etc. Stuff like this gets predictable after a while and this script does not have the cleverness to carry through these types of scenes.
Owen Wilson’s character had a bit of humanity to his name and this aided in moments where the story was dragging its feet. However, I must say I hated Sudeikis’s character through and through, all the way until the final shot of the movie (the ending is one of those abrupt, cut-to-black kinds). Just thought I would mention.
Bottom line: “Hall Pass” tries to be as edgy as other Farrelly brother projects with its bad taste humor, but what it provides simply leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The outcome is predictable, the side characters are either bland or annoying and the subplots keep piling on and on. I sincerely hope that the brothers are not completely out of their creative juices just yet, because I do love most of their movies. Based on the first few minutes that I liked, I am not yet willing to abandon my faith.