Saturday, 12 March 2011

'Hall Pass' Review

'Hall Pass' (dir/s: The Farrelly Brothers, 2011), Cert: 15

We are all familiar with the male comedy thematic and what it portrays. Whether it’s losing your virginity (‘American Pie’, ‘Superbad’ et al), causing chaos wherever you go, or acting like an idiot during a mid-life crisis (‘The Hangover’, ‘Wedding Crashers’ and Grown Ups’), we as viewers have become accustom to these tropes. Now we have ‘Hall Pass’, a sex comedy starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis and directed by the Farrelly Brothers who are known for there risqué comedies such as ‘There’s Something About Mary’ (1998).

Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis) are best friends. They are both middle-aged and married. After their wives get fed up with the pair drooling over other women and being ‘obsessed’ with sex, they are each granted a ‘Hall Pass’; a ticket that allows them one week off marriage to go out and do anything they desire in the hope that it will get all the childish behaviour out of their systems. The boys along with a group of friends hit the town in the hope of having lots of sex, tons of drinking and enough partying to last a life time, but not everything goes according to plan, and whilst all this is happening, their wives are taking part in some extramarital activities too.  
This film almost plays out like a recipe; add a bunch of beautiful women, mix it with some nerdy older guys, then throw in some overused and tired penis jokes and you have ‘Hall Pass’. It’s pretty much that simple, and unfortunately this is turning into a common occurrence with modern American comedy. Occasionally something breaks the mould; a film that wants to be different, to be fresh and new, ‘Hall Pass’ isn’t that film. Rather than originality we have to settle for second, maybe even third best. I only laughed twice during the 105 minute picture and to say these were belly laughs would be an overstatement.
 This is disappointing from the Farrelly’s because they understand the comedy genre and how everything in the picture is important, not just mindless gags. Films like ‘There’s Something About Mary’ or ‘Me, Myself and Irene’ (2000) work brilliantly because they have that perfect balance of narrative and focused characters, and then heaps of rude jokes on top. This formula is far more successful because it keeps the film in line rather than running off on a tangent and just having a group of guys drinking and talking trash.
 In the film’s defence, it’s not terrible. It’s watchable and there have been worse comedy pictures recently than this. It’s also not as vile towards females as some features, it’s still misogynistic but not to the extent of something like ‘Grown Ups’ (2010), which is still one of the most vulgar, ugly and disgusting films I’ve seen in the last few years.
Still from 'Hall Pass' (dir/s: The Farrelly Brothers, 2011)
 The cast work well enough with what they are given. Wilson is likeable and a good casting choice but it’s a shame the script is so poor because he isn’t funny. Sudeikis is basically the same scenario; he has one of the two laughs but ultimately he fails at the hands of the screenplay too. Stephan Merchant also stars which doesn’t make any sense at all. He sticks out like a sore thumb and looks like he’s only there so Americans can laugh at his ‘silly’ English accent. Christina Applegate and Jenna Fischer play the wives and they are fine but once again are not funny.
 I don’t think ‘Hall Pass’ will be the worst comedy of 2011 – we’re only in March, but I doubt it will be remembered as one of the best by viewers either. With ‘The Hangover Part 2’ to come plus others, I think this film will get swept under the rug and left there until the DVD arrives.
 If the film was better scripted and properly thought out, this could have been a funny movie. I would have watched it like I watched ‘The Hangover’ (2009); initially expected nothing but afterwards thought it was utterly hilarious. Unfortunately it’s not and once again I had to sit through an obvious and recycled picture.

Nothing new and nothing special. ‘Hall Pass’ is another comedy that’s ‘passed’ its expiry date.
By Chris Haydon

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