Uneven ‘Hall Pass’ is Worth a Look

Sunday, March 6, 2011
By Kevin Crossman

If you’ve seen the trailer you know the premise of Hall Pass. Good hearted family man Rick (Owen Wilson) is given a “hall pass” by his suffering wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer) in order to allow him to see that chasing the dream of casual sex is not all that it seems. Egged on by best friend Fred (Jason Sudekis, channeling Wedding Crashers-era Vince Vaughn) and some buddies including Gary (Stephen Merchant), Rick soon finds himself with a week off from marriage. What is a family man to do?

Jason Sudekis and Owen Wilson in Hall Pass

Jason Sudekis and Owen Wilson in Hall Pass

That’s the setup, but how does the film deliver? Hall Pass plays a lot more like The Farrelly Brothers’ films like There’s Something About Mary or The Heartbreak Kid, films with good hearts that have long stretches without a lot of jokes - but the jokes that are present go B-I-G big (think: semen on Ben Stiller’s ear). Truth be told, I prefer the Farrely’s more scattershot jokefests Kingpin or Shallow Hal where the jokes are more constant. But, does Hall Pass deliver big laughs along with the heart? Yes, it does. In fact, there are four or five huge laugh out-loud, sidesplitting, tear-inducing laughs here. And one joke in particular involves a bodily fluid I’ve never seen on screen before.

The problem with Hall Pass is that it wants to wrap the raunchy tale in an emotional “grass is greener” tale about marriage. As such, there are long long stretches without many jokes. Worse, these scenes only do a mediocre job setting up some very predicable outcomes. The storyline with Maggie and Fred’s wife Grace (Christina Applegate) leaving town and wooed by a couple locals is not funny nor particularly interesting (as if the very distracting stray-on tan on Jenna Fischer’s face during this section of the movie wasn’t bad enough). Both couples have great chemistry together - but they spend 2/3 of the movie apart.

Owen Wilson is in fine form, delivering 1980s pop culture references in a lame attempt to appear hip to a coffee barista played by the very fetching Nicky Whelan. As with Wedding Crashers, Wilson is the emotional lead in the film, but isn’t given great dialogue to balance the horny loudmouth played by Sudekis. Richard Jenkins shows up for an extended cameo that is truly entertaining, in fact if they made a movie about his character Coakley it might have made for a better movie.

Hall Pass unfortunately doesn’t change the trajectory of The Farrelly’s career. It has some funny moments and several great characters that are well worth seeking out, but you might be better off waiting for home video than blowing $11 at the theatre.

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