The bodily fluids that Peter and Bobby Farrelly let fly and sometimes squirt in their movies, along with the assaults visited on their hapless male characters and those mens various body parts, might suggest that these filmmaking brothers are stuck in a developmental quagmire. They dont just like to play around in human messes, those both ickily literal and situational; they also revel in them. Yet while all this foul play can make you blanch, these excesses are affirmations of the humanity that comes with the yuks. Their characters poop, therefore they are or at least the guys are.
Like most of the Farrellys central male figures, the two in the brothers latest film, Hall Pass Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are overgrown innocents if also adult, here with the middle-age paunch and wrinkles to prove it. Theyre light-years ahead of the happy fools in Dumb and Dumber, as evidenced by their totems of conventional grown-up life: wives, children, unremarkable jobs, pleasant houses, sport jackets, pleated slacks, $10 haircuts and sensible cars. They live in a picture-perfect Nowheresville where Rick sells real estate, and Fred peddles insurance. Theyre nice, unremarkable, close to dull, even in their habit of cheering at the all-American parade of health provided by the young breasts and bottoms that swing by everywhere they look.
|Hall Pass (A)
Director: Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Cast: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Stephen Merchant, Richard Jenkins
Running time: 98 minutes
Each is an attentive and practiced ogler. To the chagrin of his wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer), Rick likes to make like Regan in The Exorcist, swivelling his head at whatever tasty item comes within view. For his part, Fred takes mental snapshots of women for future reference and perhaps use, opening and closing his eyes like a camera shutter with comic exaggeration, as the movie freezes and starts, and his vocalised clicks fill the soundtrack. Like Maggie, Freds wife Grace (Christina Applegate) doesnt appreciate her husbands goggling eyes.
If this sounds uninspired, it assuredly is, yet the set-up mostly turns out to be something of a diversionary tactic meant to throw you off the Farrellys real game plan. The story kicks in when a relationship guru (Joy Behar) suggests that the wives give their husbands a week off from marriage a hall pass which, after not much anguish, they do. Their decision isnt believable, but the Farrellys have never let niceties like realism get in the way of their jokes.
Once the funny and not-so-funny start to flow, you might not care, though it would be nice if the Farrellys did care about the banality of their images, just a little. The laughs start percolating after the wives split, natch, and their husbands, accompanied by a troika of jesters Gary (the peerlessly funny Stephen Merchant), Hog-Head (Larry Joe Campbell) and Flats (J B Smoove) hit the singles scene, first by going to... Applebees. They quickly move elsewhere only to end up in a postdinner stupor, an unpromising start to a week that finds them trolling more promising waters, including a coffee shop where a barista, Leigh (Nicky Whelan), flaunts a derriere admired by Rick and, to judge from the shots of her rear, the similarly awed filmmakers.
At one point the Farrellys have Whelan drop her top for the seemingly obligatory shot of bared and proffered breasts. She doesnt appear uncomfortable obliging them. Hey, she has a speaking part in a Hollywood movie. Some women (and men) in the audience might feel less sanguine about this display, a cheesecake moment that arrives just when the story teeters toward unbearable sentimentality. In Hall Pass the Farrellys are exploring nominally adult realms, like marital fatigue and cheating, but too often these apparent good intentions get the best of them and their timing.