Hall Pass ✮
by Glenn Lovell
We all have tough standards to uphold. Orson Welles tried and failed to live up to “Citizen Kane”; Michael Cimino never bested “The Deer Hunter.” The Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter, have their Cameron Diaz hair-gel howler in “There’s Something about Mary.”
God knows, they’ve tried to out doo-doo that jaw-dropping moment with an endless barrage of penis and defecation jokes. But the gags in “Stuck on You” and some of their other post-”Mary” entries were just that – gag- inducing stinkers.
The Farrellys return to Providence, their home turf, for “Hall Pass,” which somehow is less funny than their last film, that leaden remake of “Heartbreak Kid” starring Ben Stiller. It could be that the boys have misplaced their mean-spirited muse; they just don’t seem to take the same sadistic delight in ribbing their characters as they once did.
Actually, “Hall Pass” isn’t a half bad premise, even if it dates to the 1950s and “The Honeymooners”: two sex-obsessed 30-somethings are given a break from their marriages by their fed-up wives. The premise is just so poorly executed that, in the end, even the team’s signature flatulence and dildo jokes aren’t enough. They’re replaced by sneeze dumps and real penises, which as a sign of our more accepting times now rate an R.
Owen Wilson and SNL’s Jason Sudeikis co-star as a couple of doofus Romeos who, when given a week on their own, can’t seem to get past the blue-plate special at Applebee’s. Wilson’s Rick is the shy, mild-mannered one; Sudeikis’s Fred is the loud-mouthed lout. You can think of them as Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone on the prowl … in coffee shops, health clubs, a massage parlor (operated, of course, by a loud Korean).
What they learn as the clock ticks down is that there’s no place like home with the wife and kiddies. And you thought the Farrellys weren’t sentimental. Makes you go all squishy inside, no?
The joke, of course, is on Fred and Rick. As they repeatedly strike out, their wives, played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, take full advantage of their alone time, scooting from one flattering proposition to another.
If this were a classic screwball comedy co-starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, everyone would learn his/her lesson and return to their respective mates, without any real harm done. With the Farrellys calling the shots nothing is harmless and more than one character strays for real. At its horny heart, you see, this is a good-for-the-goose cautionary tale. Not to worry: Wilson’s clueless one does more ogling than groping, even when a pretty barista (Nicky Whalen) flashes him the go sign.
“Hall Pass,” actually shot in Georgia, boasts the production values of public access TV. The masturbation / marijuana jokes aren’t worthy of a Farrelly outtakes reel. The best bit, where characters flash on alternative realities, was lifted from “Run Lola Run.” The supporting cast ‒ the term is applied loosely here ‒ includes Joy Behar as a shrink friend who plants the seed, Richard Jenkins as a grizzled make-out king, Stephen Merchant as a Brit buddy, and Derek Waters as a pathologically jealous runt. Larry Joe Campbell plays a character named Hog-Head. Enough said.
Hall pass? Thanks, we’ll stay in class.
HALL PASS ✮ With Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Richard Jenkins, Bruce Thomas. Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly; scripted by Pete Jones, Kevin Barnett, the Farrellys. 106 min. R (for smutty language, defecation jokes, nudity).