Hall Pass - Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, written by Pete Jones, Kevin Barnett, & the Farrellys, starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, and Stephen Merchant - Rated R
A little over a decade ago the brothers Farrelly were the kings of the man-child gross-out comedy with hits like Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, and Me, Myself, & Irene. But they’ve been usurped by the likes of Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell. Not only have newer filmmakers and actors churned out Farrelly-type films, but these films have been much funnier than the efforts from the Farrellys lately (Stuck on You, Fever Pitch, The Heartbreak Kid). With Hall Pass, the brothers attempt to get back in the game and, for the most part, they succeed.
Hall Pass is a comedy about two married guys, Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis), who can’t keep their eyes (and minds) off other women. Eventually, their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), decide to give them the titular pass, which is a week off from marriage. In other words, they can attempt to hook up with all of these women they ogle. The concept is, of course, ridiculous, but the idea behind it has merit: the fact that many married men think that their wives are the only thing keeping them from getting with any woman they want. This isn’t to say that “Hall Pass” is a serious look at marriage or infidelity or anything. The film does have its few slightly serious moments, but it is first and foremost a comedy.
The movie starts off great because it is a bit of a low key comedy at first. It’s really just about married guys and all the guy talk that comes with the territory. If Hall Pass gets one thing right, it’s the guy talk. The script is realistic enough when it comes to this aspect that many women might hate this film while their male counterparts may absolutely love it. Hall Pass definitely has the propensity to be a wildly divisive movie. The movie does try to appeal to women, though it ends up being rather pointless and the scenes featuring the wives tend to drag and completely lack the comedic effort that scenes with the guys feature.
All of the scenes with Rick and Fred (and a few buddies) work great. It is truly funny to see grown men past their prime attempting to get back into a young man’s world. They are as hilarious as they are pathetic. Whether they’re crapping out at nine o’clock at an Applebee’s or unable to handle their high on a golf course, it’s always amusing.
Unfortunately, their friends abandon them a bit early and it’s left to Rick and Fred. This would have been fine if Jason Sudeikis had been cast as the lead. Owen Wilson lacks the comedic presence to carry the workload of this film. Sudeikis is the force that keeps the movie afloat in the second half. That’s saying something, because it’s in the latter half of the film that gross-out comedy comes to the forefront. Hall Pass succeeds in its dialogue alone, but the Farrellys seemed to want to inject some shock value into the film. Shock doesn’t equal laughs, though. All the big physical comedy (pun intended for those who have seen the film) falls a bit flat and just seems forced. Be warned though, there are attempts to shock you (just be sure to read why it’s rated R before you watch it if you’re worried).
Hall Pass is elevated by a strong supporting cast, though. Stephen Merchant (“The Ricky Gervais Show”) has a small role as one of the pals, but he has one of the funniest scenes in the film, just make sure you stick around for the credits to see it. Farrelly regular Richard Jenkins shows up as an amusing ladies man. And Derek Waters (of "Drunk History" fame) is funny as a spurned barista.
One thing that is kind of arbitrary but annoying nonetheless about Hall Pass is the use of the title. It’s usually a cheesy, but sometimes necessary movie trope to say the title in the film. That’s okay, but this film goes overboard with it. It got old hearing this exchange of dialogue: “I got a hall pass!” “A what?” Seriously, that exchange happens at least five times in the first half hour. It may be unavoidable, but it was still annoying.
Hall Pass has its weaknesses but it hits far more often than it misses and you’ll likely be laughing throughout…depending on your gender. It isn’t a true return to form for the Farrellys but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping they keep walking that way.