Review: Hall Pass
PLOT: After pushing their wives to the brink of rationality, two suburban salesmen (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) are given a hall pass: one week off of marriage to do whatever they want.
REVIEW: I was a bit skeptical going into HALL PASS. Why? Let’s make a checklist of the most recent comedy trends HALL PASS brings to the table, shall we? A high-concept that can sum the movie up in a tagline? Check. Bro-mancing? Check. A character getting knocked around and bandaged back up progressively throughout the film (as long as he isn’t the top billed star)? Check. Gratuitous cameos? Check. Unfathomably gorgeous young woman who love all of the things banal middle aged men secretly hate about themselves? Check. Shameless sentimentality juxtaposing gross humor? Check. Unappreciated wives/girlfriends putting up with far too much shit from their men? Check. Exotic animals partying with the boys? … uh, damn. Well there are dicks of many shapes, sizes and colors swinging about, so we’ll have to make do with that. You know what though? I don’t mind. More importantly, it still kind of works.
There is a fine line between genre archetypes and clichéd crap. I could go on trying to define and explain when the Farrelly brothers crossed that line, bounced back again or just plain ran over it with a bulldozer… at the end of the day it doesn’t matter so much- I laughed a consistent amount with HALL PASS- enough to recommend it, albeit it not without a certain amount of caution… Caution in that the MOST I was expected going in was a healthy amount of belly laughs and maybe, just maybe a genuine smile reaffirming the possibility that women like Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate could fall for two helpless dumbasses. In the two hours that breezed by I can safely say it did accomplish just that, even if it seemed out of breath by the finish line.
The glue for me is in the chemistry between Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis). I can forgive the lack of chemistry they have with their significant others since the screen time they share with the wives actually doesn’t amount to much. This is a studio comedy after all, believable bro-mances are more important, and in that department, they deliver. Likewise, Jenna and Christina have great chemistry together as friends, so we’re good. Owen Wilson has always been at his best playing that high spirited kid with enough enduring optimism to drag a friend or two with him. Here, Jason Sedeikis brings just as much buoyancy and together they managed to carry me through each new comedy set piece with a grin. It’s this kind of spunk the Farrelly’s gave Llyod and Harry in DUMB & DUMBER that keeps me interested.
There is a lot missing however, or at the very least a good deal I can’t forgive. There is SO MUCH potential in this cast and most of them simply don’t get enough to do. Fans of Stephen Merchant might be a disappointed to see that his presence is mostly just window dressing with, at best, two decent gags. Likewise newly mom-to-be Alyssa Milano shows up to be the butt of a joke before being tossed out and forgotten. Was it a supposed to be a cameo? It felt more like an introduction to a character left on the cutting room floor to me.
Then we have the always great Richard Jenkins, who is the Obi-Wan to our droids, a senior citizen friend of the duo that still lives up the high single life. For a colorful character intended to steal the movie, Jenkins is given a throw away introduction and we never really get a sense of what his relationship is to Rick or Fred. On top of that, I can’t even recall any distinguishable characteristics the men Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) spent time with during their week of freedom, even though we are supposed to buy that Maggie almost emotionally opens up to one of them.
All that being said, while it never reaches the emotional arc it should (or at least the level it thinks it accomplishes) concerning the ramifications family men and women have with a whole week off of marriage, they do an adequate job making us at least care about the journey. That is until the ending. Jesus the ending… An ending so horrifyingly sentimental and unbelievable even the sucker punch dirty joke before the credits won’t be able to overcome the branded rainbow left tattooed to your eyes. This balance is what the Farrelly’s are known for however, maybe there is a joke in that. Either way, there are enough poo gags, cunnilingus gags and masturbating gags that work to warrant an enjoyable viewing of HALL PASS.