Low fidelity – Hall Pass review

Hall Pass – Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Jenna Fischer. Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Rated MA. By Simon Miraudo.

The Farrelly brothers’ Hall Pass suggests a few things about human nature (specifically of the y-chromosome owners) that are somewhat depressing in their truthfulness. Firstly: men are essentially hardwired to be animalistic, sex-crazed jerks; consumed entirely by their plight for instant gratification. Hard to argue against. Every male character in this film – from the henpecked husbands, to the swinging 60-year-old single dude played by Richard Jenkins, and even the heartbroken barista who flies off the handles in the final act – is driven purely by their need for sex. A depressing truth, but a truth nonetheless. The second “insight” made by Bobby and Peter Farrelly is equally insulting, but still kind of true: men can be fooled by even the most basic attempt at reverse psychology. For instance, when the wives of horny Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) offer them one week off marriage to do and sleep with whomever they please, they expect the sudden freedom will terrify them, and send the boys running back into their loving embrace. The women are pretty much right on the money.

The third observation made in Hall Pass is that men look back on their single days with rose-tinted glasses, forgetting all the horror and awkwardness of the dating scene that they supposedly “gave up” for a life of boring matrimony and mortgages. Again, as a man, that is tough to dispute. Even I occasionally reminisce of teen parties in which I drank too much, flirted unsuccessfully with anyone in my general vicinity, got beaten by strangers whilst walking home and spent the next few days feeling sorry for myself in bed. Ah, to be single again.

But the Farrelly brothers’ are not expected to make films that point out the most obvious aspects of manhood, as if they were documenting them for some sort of scientific experiment. They are expected to make us laugh by lampooning the idiot nature of man, as they have done so successfully in the past with There’s Something About Mary (in which a batch of men obsess over a woman – that is, admittedly, perfect – despite barely knowing her) and their ironically genius attempt to reduce the essence of manhood to near-caveman idiocy in Dumb and Dumber. Even their last film, the unpleasant and misogynistic The Heartbreak Kid, traded in a similar currency, although it unfairly made the women the villains of the piece, when the male characters were already plenty vile.

Hall Pass, although in theory rather astute in pointing out the foibles of man, is light on the laughs. There is a great comedy to be made in which a couple of long-married men attempt to re-enter the dating scene, but this is not it. Sure, the moments featuring sex-guru Coakley (the always brilliant Jenkins) come close, as do the occasional sequences in which Rick and Fred take their similarly whipped buddies (J.B. Smoove, Stephen Merchant and Larry Joe Campbell) out on the town. But these supporting characters pop up only when convenient, and are sadly absent for much of the film’s runtime. Instead, we are left with a couple of mildly amusing vignettes that wouldn’t even feature in a listing of the brothers’ 25 funniest scenes.

What saves the movie is its depiction of the wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate). Also enjoying a week-long Hall Pass of their own, they discover that they still have ‘it’, attracting the attention of an entire baseball team and their coach. Although Wilson and Sudeikis have some nice chemistry (as a fan of Saturday Night Live, I’m particularly glad to see Sudeikis score a headlining role), Fischer and Applegate bounce off one another even better. I can’t help but wonder if the film would be improved if flipped entirely on its head. Considering that the males here are all one-dimensional animals who aren’t exactly fending off the ladies, perhaps it would have been more interesting to follow the much deeper trials of Maggie and Grace, who are genuinely tempted by infidelity.

But as it stands, the film is fine. There are enough laughs to warrant a viewing, and a particularly sweet and truthful speech given by Wilson towards the end is rather affecting (ignore the fact that it is delivered to a naked woman). As far as Farrelly brothers’ films go, this one feels particularly rough around the edges. The fact so many supporting characters are introduced and then unceremoniously dropped suggests a lot has been left on the cutting room floor; either they allowed a lot of improvisation or the shooting script was a touch too long. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a return to form, but after The Heartbreak Kid, they could have simply aimed the camera at the end result of Hall Pass’ most scatological sequence, and it would be considered an improvement.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Hall Pass arrives in Australian cinemas March 3, 2011.

2 Responses to “Low fidelity – Hall Pass review”

  1. >this movie is ridculous. i can't understand why Owen Wilson's character wouldn't have boned both the Austalian chick Leigh, and the 21 Year old babysitter. the movie lost all credibility at that point, and i just about walked out. nobody in their right minds would turn down pieces like that. i sure wouldn't. so this garbage for that reason alone (never mind the extensive product placement) is not worth seeing.

  2. >I see sexism hasn't lost its way. Nice to see a male character on screen who's not ruled by his cock for once and has some morals.

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