Hall Pass (2011) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity, and drug use
Running time: 105 min.
Cast: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Merchant, Larry Joe Campbell, Bruce Thomas, Tyler Hoechlin, Derek Waters, Alexandra Daddario, Rob Moran, Joy Behar
Cameo: Alyssa Milano, Kathy Griffin
Director: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Screenplay: Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly, Kevin Barnett, Bobby Farrelly
I'll entertain your guesses as to why the film is named after an object that allows school children to go to the bathroom,
The premise is that two longtime married suburbanite men, Rick (Wilson, Little Fockers) and Fred (Sudeikis, What Happens in Vegas) ("I Love Lucy" reference?), are so sexually frustrated that they can't help but ogle and imagine sex with every hot young thing that passes by -- something that their seasoned wives can't help but notice. After feeling that there's not much they can do other than be chagrined, the wives, Maggie (Fischer, Walk Hard) and Grace (Applegate, Farce of the Penguins), decide to give hubbies what they call a 'hall pass' -- a week where they can put their marriages aside and live like bachelors, then sow their wild oats to their hearts content with no strings attached -- and hope they get it all out of their system to concentrate on their own families again. When once they thought they could be getting tail galore if they weren't married, they may soon learn that being single isn't as easy as it appears, especially to mature men who've been out of the game for over a decade.
The Farrelly Brothers (The Heartbreak Kid, Fever Pitch) return, after being away for four years, to the raunchy-R-pushing-NC17 comedies that brought them success in the 1990s with Hall Pass, a crass and crude sex satire that examines the "seven year itch" that occurs in many marriages after things settle down and the sparks no longer fly. They eschew the broad and dopey characterizations of their past films, where we're supposed to laugh at how pathetic the characters are, and concentrate more on the pathetic situations they progressively find themselves immersed in due to their own personal flaws.
Some of their insights are funny, but they have difficulty with subtlety, and find themselves reaching into the tried-and-true barf bag to try to drum up big, uncomfortable laughs. It is here that the Farrelly's find themselves lumped in with that other 1990s raunch-meistro, Kevin Smith, in looking long in the tooth in trying to be as relevant as Judd Apatow, as they can't deliver the insight or connection with the modern audience full of 20- and 30-somethings. Like the married men at the heart of the film, they want to seduce the people half their age, only to find that they just aren't as hip or happening as they were 15 or 20 years ago.
Hall Pass isn't unwatchable, and it isn't without some decent laughs, but the parts you'll remember are likely to be the ones you wish you could forget -- penis shots (the Apatow cribbing is rampant), poop splatters, and unsavory oral sex references that may have people checking Urban Dictionary, What's left other than these things is tepid and uneven, relying on a very annoying Owen Wilson characterization to anchor it. Sudeikis mostly steals the movie's energy and laughs, though he doesn't yet have the onscreen charisma to be a major player -- but he is funny;. The roles of the women are cast well, though there's no time where the characterizations feel as if they are three dimensional. Nearly all of the female characters are as they are in most Farrelly flicks -- vessels to give the male cast something to make fools out of themselves for.
Hall Pass has a few good chuckles, particularly when seeing just how quixotic the male quest to re-live bachelor days when long past one's prime, but not enough to sustain a half-hour sitcom premise, no matter how much revolting sex gags and defecation the Farrelly's manage to stuff in between the story points. Years of marriage have made the men awkward, dorky misfits again. Alas, the idea of what that's like is funnier than how it plays out, as the jokes spread too thin to give Hall Pass a pass.
©2011 Vince Leo