‘Hall Pass’: Do You Remember the Last Time the Farrelly Brothers Were Funny? Neither do I

[21 June 2011]

By Brent McKnight

If movies have taught us anything over the years it is that marriage equals bland, sexless death, and Hall Pass, the latest offering from the Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the team behind such movies as There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin, drives that point home, again. But do you remember the last time the Farrelly Brothers were funny? Neither do I, but Hall Pass is at least passably entertaining, for a while.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are long-time best buds who think, if not for their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), their lives would be a non-stop sexual adventure with every beautiful woman they see. In the pathetic shell their lives have become, “getting lucky” means sneaking out while your wife is asleep to rub one out in a minivan.

Fed up with their husband’s carnal obsession, Maggie and Grace, at the urging of their grating psychiatrist friend Dr. Lucy (Joy Behar), give the boys a “hall pass”, a week off from marriage where they can behave however they want, sans consequences. If this feels like a gimmick, it totally is, and for the rest of the movie you’re left to wonder, does this actually happen? I’m sure it has happened, but the idea of a licensed professional recommending this, especially to close friends, is more than a little far fetched.

Perhaps in drastic circumstances, as a last-ditch effort, but Rick and Fred are just clueless jackasses. They’re not cheating, they’re not going to, they’re simply stuck on juvenile fantasies, like their wives are living out their dreams of marriage and kids, while the boys are sacrificing theirs.

With those pesky wives out of the way, Rick and Fred set out on a quest for the anonymous sex they think they crave, poker buddies in tow because they need an audience for their triumphs. Of course, these middle-aged suburbanites have no clue how to go about hooking up, and the first night they flame out by 9:15PM, after discovering that Applebee’s is not the best place to pick up hot women. Who would’ve guessed that?

They try internet dating, a strip mall massage parlor, and every trick in the book. These guys are so uncool that when they bribe a doorman to let them into a club, he is fired on the spot. As Rick and Fred chase tail all over the burbs, Maggie and Grace, also on their own for the first time in years, cut loose and go on their own adventure of self-discovery. Seems they needed a “hall pass”, too.

There are some solid chuckles in Hall Pass, like a string of shenanigans on a golf course while under the influence of some pot brownies, and some moments that will please the fans of gross out humor in the audience, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the film. It’s an entertaining enough watch for most of the run time. That is, until the end.

The last 20 minutes Hall Pass becomes forced, nonsensical and, to be honest, stupid. Up to then it is a middle of the road comedy, but it becomes a heavy-handed morality play about seeing and appreciating what you already have. Any momentum the film had before completely comes off the rails at this point.

The tension of the story should come from the will-they-won’t-they dynamic. The only problem is that you know what’s coming. The plot is wholly predictable, and you know exactly what important life lessons are going to be learned by every character. And after a while, you don’t actually care if anyone sleeps with anyone else.

The best part of Hall Pass actually happens during the credits when Gary (Stephen Merchant) cuts loose on a flight of fancy about what it would be like if his own wife gave him a hall pass. So if you do find yourself in possession of this DVD or Blu-ray, you should skip to the end, watch that bit, and call it a day.

The home release comes with a lengthy deleted scene that introduces Coakley (Richard Jenkins), Rick and Fred’s rich, single, swinging international playboy friend. How or why they’re friends is unclear. This was cut for good reason. In the actual film, Coakley is a cool, suave, ladies man, full of advice, but in this scene he’s a pathetic, aging womanizer. His role only works when he’s the former, when he’s the sage teacher, not a sad loser who pretends to be a priest to get out of a drunk driving arrest.

The only other bonus feature is a two-minute gag reel that is completely pointless. Watching Hall Pass you think, at least the DVD will have a bunch of silly outtakes and clips of filthy improvised bits, but there’s none of that. All you get is two minutes of flubbed lines and takes ruined by passing airplanes. You’ll wonder why they even bothered.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/144021-hall-pass/