It’s been a while since we’ve received a film written and directed by the brothers Farrelly, but it has been even longer since one of those films has truly been funny and entertaining. The pair of sophomoric gentleman know how to get some nasty jokes into their films that would make anyone laugh, but unfortunately their last few efforts haven’t been that great aside from a few jokes hitting here and there.
Now they return once again with Hall Pass. A little more grown up, perhaps? You’ve got a movie about married couples and actors pushing into their 40s so we’re not dealing with the same raunch and youth as when the brothers first started making films. So how do the more mature Farrely brothers fare in Hall Pass?
Hall Pass is a film with a serious identity crisis. Caught somewhere between a romantic comedy and a raunchy one, the entire film feels like it’s not quite sure what it wants to be. However, where this might ruin other films it actually turns out to be a strength for Hall Pass. The random spurts of gross out humor feel so out of place that they make them all the funnier and somehow truer. Scense involving male gentalia and fecal matter seem that much more out of place and thus that much funnier. It’s a strange concotion, but somehow it works.
These raunchy bits of over-the-top humor are sandwiched into a pretty standard plot about guys being guys and women being women. Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikes) get a “hall pass” from their wives because they are always checking out women and their wives think that it will make their marriage better. A hall pass is basically a week off from marriage where they can have sex with whatever woman they want. Their two wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) go off with the kids on vacation and the guys get to party it up like they’re back in high school.
Guess what. They aren’t high school aged anymore and the two, along with their friends, pretty much crash and burn for an entire week as they discover that they don’t have any game left and they probably didn’t have it in the first place. Meanwhile their wives get into their own situation with other gentlemen and the film becomes a story of faithfulness and love. As I stated before, it’s a strange combination of going from the true to life humor of the guys crashing and burning as they hit on people to the gross out humorous situations that they also find themselves in. In fact there is nothing even resembling a traditional Farrely brothers movie until abut 30 minutes in when you are quite abruptly reminded that the two like to make you laugh in many not so subtle ways.
The outcome of this is that the film is funny once you get use to it or maybe even funnier after the film when thinking back on it. I found myself laughing more at the jokes once the film was done than during the film. Maybe that’s a drawback to a comedy like this, and it’s of note that I don’t think I seriously cracked up beyond control a single time during the film. While the mixing of two comedy styles works, it can also lead to some jagged edges that make the comedy seem far less funny than it could have been in other situations. Thankfully, Wilson and Sudeikes are both consistently funny throughout, and it’s refreshing to see two actors able to deadpan so well together without one of them being a caricature.
The two major downfalls of the film are easy enough to ignore for the comedy, but it is a bit annoying how the film treats men and women so stereotypically sometimes. If this had been another raunchy comedy it would have fit, but with some of the sappier and more grounded parts coming in the stereotypes stand out all the more. The film seems to want to deliver belivable characters and then have them act in unbeliviable ways, which just makes for some odd parts. The other flaw is the ridiculousness notion the a man wouldn’t be happy sleeping with Jenna Fischer or Christina Applegate, even if they are made down to look like tired mothers and wives.
There’s no way that Hall Pass is anywhere near the classic comedies the brothers made earlier in their careers, but it is far from their worst comedy. It is refreshing to see them grow up a little and deliver some humor that isn’t based around the idea that “farts are funny” (they are). However, a bit more balance would have done the film wonders and made it a better comedy. Still, if its goal is to make you laugh then Hall Pass is a success.
Overall Score: 6.85 – Okay. (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)
Overall Score: 6.55 — Okay. The quality of the Farrelly Brothers’ films have been in steady decline the past ten years or so, but Hall Pass feels like a step in the right direction. While the laughs feel a bit inconsistent, when the jokes land, they hit hard. One scene in which Wilson and Sudeikis take turns ripping into the guests of housewarming party as those same guests eavesdrop via the house’s panic room security cameras had me gasping for breath. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also shower praise for Stephen Merchant, who is the only supporting cast member worth talking about here. If nothing else, it seems the Brothers Farrelly have found their heart again with Hall Pass, something missing from their highly unlikable last outing, The Heartbreak Kid.