Hall Pass – Review


The Farrelly’s latest is big on laughs, and big on heart.

There was a time when the Farrelly Brothers were viewed as comedic geniuses that weren’t afraid to push any and all boundaries in order to get a laugh. They created two of the most memorable comedies of the 90s and (some would argue) of the last century in Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. That, however, was a long time ago, and the duo has since had troubles replicating the success their earlier works reached at the box-office. Does their latest film, Hall Pass, have what it takes to see lightning strike for the siblings once more? Well, that’s where things get a bit more complicated.

In a genre that has had just about every boundary bent or broken by this point, the question of whether or not the Farrelly brothers could step up their game and compete with other hit comedies in recent memory is certainly a viable one. One thing they’ve always been good at is mixing gross-out, catch you completely off-guard jokes with a story that also has some heart behind it, and Hall Pass definitely has a lot of both.

The film stars the criminally underrated Owen Wilson and SNL alumni Jason Sudeikis as Rick and Fred, two married men who always seem to have their mind on sex. While this is a buddy flick of sorts (though it will definitely pass as a date film that both sexes will enjoy), I’d lean towards calling Rick the central character, as he’s just more grounded, and is introduced to the audience as the loyal father and husband who also just has the same tendencies that most men have when it comes to the opposite sex. Or, as he likes to call it, “a curse.”

Fred, on the other hand, is the guy that’s there because Rick needs a wing-man. The film also needs to have a guy that goes on this journey that can take the hits, and be almost a comedic punching bag of sorts. He doesn’t have the same character depth as Rick, has no kids, and seems to be more sexually driven than his friend both before and after they receive a hall pass from their wives.

This would likely be a good time to explain, exactly, what a hall pass is to those who don’t know. A hall pass is a week off from marriage and all its duties. It’s a free pass to do whatever you want, with whomever you want, with no consequences. When Rick and Fred’s wives, Maggie and Grace (played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate respectively) finally get fed up with their antics they decide to take a trip to Maggie’s parents cottage, leaving the boys to do as they please for an entire week.

What works so well in the film is just how the Farrelly’s capture the perspectives of both sexes, while also following the motif that the grass is always greener on the other side. Each day is broken up by a “Day 1″, “Day 2″ time stamp, complete with the sound from Law & Order. The first few days fly by, really showing, in hilarious fashion, that picking up women, and being single once again isn’t exactly as easy, or fulfilling as the guys may have remembered.

It’s also not like the women just vanish from the film while the men do their thing either, as there’s an entire side story given to Maggie and Grace, who take the opportunity to give themselves a hall pass once they’re invited out by a group of young college baseball players, and their coach (who also happens to be a friend of Maggie’s father.)

Things get complicated, and things get hilarious. There are plenty of memorable moments that may not hit “Franks and Beans!” status, but will definitely cause a solid amount of laughter both during the movie, and after, when random moments pop back into your head. While it takes a while to pick up steam, the film definitely gets better the longer it goes, and really takes off on days five and six.

The acting is solid, and Wilson and Sudeikis both have solid buddy chemistry, as well as great comedic timing. I believe Wilson is one of the funniest guys in Hollywood, with perfect comedic timing that just seems to come completely natural. He’s had some solid success, but in the leading man category I feel he’s never been fully recognized for the talent he truly is, with many hilarious comedies barely making a blip on the box-office radar (I’m looking at you Shanghai Noon/Knight, and Drillbit Taylor!) Here, he may have his first big comedic success since Wedding Crashers, though it won’t reach near the same numbers.

Sudeikis, on the other hand, shows that he’s a guy who can deliver laughs though he’ll definitely always be the friend of the main guy, or even friend of a friend in some cases. That’s not a bad thing as without those guys the films that they’re in definitely wouldn’t be as funny. Fischer and Applegate also work well here, both adding an extra layer to the film that I didn’t think it would have. While Applegate is the female equivalent of her onscreen husband, Fischer’s work as Rick’s onscreen counterpart really gives their relationship the spark it needs to make their motivations and actions, both good and bad, seem genuine. Also worth noting is the fantastic performance by Richard Jenkins, as the bar-hopping, pick-up guru Coakley. He enters the fray when the film is really hitting its stride, and his presence helps elevate it to another level.

So is Hall Pass going to help bring the Farrelly name back to the forefront in comedy? Not likely, but it definitely won’t knock it backwards like some of their recent misses. It’s definitely one of the funniest movies that’s come along recently, and if anything it helps prove that the brothers still have some great stuff left in the tank. If you’re looking for lots of laughs, lots of heart, and a warning why it’s never good to fall asleep in a hot tub, don’t let this one pass you by.

Directors: Peter & Bobby Farrelly
Notable Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate
Writer(s): Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly, Kevin Barnett, Bobby Farrelly

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