Hall Pass

© 2011 Ray Wong

The Farrelly brothers are well known for their crude, sexual comedies, but they seem to have peaked with There's Something About Mary. That doesn't mean they won't keep trying.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) have been best friends since college, and they're happily married to their respective wives Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) for more than 20 years. But "happy" is an interesting word. Their respective marriages are actually in a funk. Fred is obsessed with sex, which he doesn't get a lot from Grace. And Rick is frustrated because Maggie doesn't seem to be interested in him anymore.

Their wives aren't stupid either. They realize their husbands are not happy, nor are they, and the men need to get things out of their system. They decide to give Rick and Fred their hall passes: one week off marriage when they can do whatever they want, no questions asked. The women are taking the children to Maggie's parents' cottage in Cape Cod for a week, while Rick and Fred check into a motel (they don't want to bring chicks to their respective homes -- how thoughtful).

The women are right, though. Rick and Fred are all talk and no action, like domestic cats that are too afraid to go outside the house. They waste 3 days for their "freedom" doing exactly what they do best: putz around with their chums. It's harder than they thought: they are, after all, married middle-aged men, not hot, young studs anymore. Only later in the week do they get closer to action. Meanwhile, Maggie and Grace meet some really nice baseball players and their faithfulness is also being tested…

Owen Wilson (Little Fockers) tones down his surfer boy charm to play a married middle-aged man. He's actually quite convincing, having gained a few extra pounds and looking pale as snow, complete with a dorky haircut. But the look is just part of it. Owen is by and large successful in portraying the family man. He's the "straight man" to Jason Sudeikis' doofus. Sudeikis (The Bounty Hunter) plays a variation of one of his Saturday Night Live skit characters. It's not to say he's not any good; just that he's played that before. His character is mostly a hodgepodge of caricatures and skits; there's not much depth.

Jenna Fischer (Solitary Men) is suitably dowdy as Rick's wife of 20 years. Actually she's a little young to play that role, but somehow she looks older in the movie. The problem is, Fischer seems to play the same character in every movie or TV show. She does it very well, but we'd like to see a better range for her. Same can be said about Christina Applegate (Going the Distance), who plays the Fred's feisty wife with zest, but she reminds us she has a limited range as an actress.

The supporting cast is generally good. Nicky Whelan (Hollywood & Wine) steals her scenes as the object of Rick's affection; and yes, she is super hot. Richard Jenkins (Eat, Pray, Love) is a master chameleon, also stealing scenes as a playboy who is too old for his tricks. Derek Waters (He's Just Not That Into You) is hilarious as a psychotic DJ. And Stephen Merchant (Gnomeo and Juliet) is funny as one of Rick and Fred's best friends.

Written and directed by the Farrelly brothers (The Heartbreak Kid), the story is what we expect: crude sex jokes, embarrassing situations, gratuitous male frontal nudity. The gags generally work; there are some hilarious moments. As the plot progresses, however, the jokes become increasingly tiresome. Near the end, the plot just falls apart, the scenarios outrageous. It's hard to watch. The premise suffers a huge dose of incredulity, too. OK, I understand these are happily married, middle-aged men, but do they have to be such doofuses? Honestly, I don't know any married men like them. They're totally clueless, acting like they're still 12. They have no idea how to talk to women.

Worst of all, they are all talk and no action. I don't know any men who can't get laid if they really want to. So the idea that these couple of guys -- not bad-looking or completely out of shape, either -- have a hard time hooking up is a tremendously difficult suspension of disbelief. And the ending doesn't sit well for me because they regress into these spineless, stupid men who live in the shadows of their respective wives. Rick is, in particular, unbelievable. I don't buy a guy like him having one and only one sex partner (his wife) in his entire life. It's sentimental but highly unlikely.

The problem with Farrelly brothers' movies is that while they're entertaining, they also stretch the truth and become tiresome really quickly. They pander to the teenage boys and lack the sophistication and depths of crude, sex comedies coming from people like Judd Apatow. Hall Pass reminds us the brothers have passed their peak. But for old time's sake, I'll give it a passing grade.

Stars: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins
Directors: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Writers: Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Kevin Barnett
Distributor: New Line
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual humor, graphic nudity and drug use
Running Time: 105 minutes


Script – 5
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Music/Sound– 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7

Total – 6.3 out of 10

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