What would happen if a wife let her husband do whatever he wanted for a week with no repercussions? Well, that’s the very thing the Farrelly brothers explore in their newest outing Hall Pass, starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis.
When Maggie (Jenna Fischer) catches her husband Rick (Owen Wilson) checking out other women, it upsets her. Other mounting problems lead Maggie to believe giving Rick a "hall pass" will save their marriage in the long run. At first Rick is reluctant to do anything with his temporary freedom, but when his best friend Fred (Jason Sudeikis) convinces his wife Grace (Christina Applegate) to give him a hall pass as well, the two men are on the prowl for some fast action. However, the simple task of getting laid proves increasingly difficult for these semi-happily married men.
There are a few standout moments early on, but the movie really starts when both Rick and Fred receive their hall passes. The Farrelly brothers spend just a little too much time getting there, though. Some of the jokes between the husbands and wives fall a little flat and things, in general, tend to drag. Obviously there needs to be setup, but from the very first scene we get the picture, being married has some serious drawbacks, especially when you are attracted to nearly every woman you pass. Even the introduction of the hall pass was more than a little forced, when it is scientifically explained by Maggie and Grace’s friend Dr. Lucy (Joy Behar). Yet, even with the slow start, the laughs that follow in the film’s second act are numerous and many times absolutely hilarious.
Lots of guys fantasize about other women, and in theory, many would jump at the chance for a hall pass. The fantasies envisioned by these men probably wouldn’t be very comical, though, and the Farrelly brothers understand this. The thing that makes Hall Pass humorous is the attempt at fantasy and the subsequent failure to do something that seems so easy. Both Fred and Rick have been out of the dating game for years, and at first they use this as an excuse for their inadequacies, but it soon becomes apparent that maybe these guys weren’t exactly ladies men in their pre-marital lives. From trying to pick up women at Applebee’s to taking pot brownies, the guys seem more like clueless teenagers than dating veterans. As the nights go on, the guys’ adventures get bigger and, for the most part, the laughs do, too.
Though the wives’ hall pass week serves as a nice counter balance to Rick and Fred’s (they have no trouble picking up new men), the scenes spent on their new-found relationships is mostly time wasted, as there is little humor in this section, and it does little to advance the main plot. The movie belongs to Rick and Fred, but more importantly to Rick. Wilson shows a strong range of emotion in his portrayal of Rick, and we learn more about his relationship to his wife in his scenes alone than we do in their scenes on screen together. It’s clear the Farrelly brothers are serious about their comedy, but that doesn’t mean the movie has to have sections devoid of laughter.
Stephen Merchant (playing Gary), in his biggest role to date, leads the pack of envious, non-pass holding friends along for the ride. Though he’s still got a long way to compete with his writing/directing buddy Ricky Gervais, Merchant proves, as an actor, he can serve up a good laugh with the best of them. Merchant and the rest of the friends provide such good laughs that they’re almost missed when they realize the hall pass isn’t all they dreamed it would be and bow out of the adventure. But Hall Pass, like Dumb and Dumber, arguably the Farrelly brothers’ best movie, is a buddy movie, and it’s a pretty good one at that.
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