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Hall Pass (R)


03/03/11
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Two men get a week free from their marital responsibilities and restrictions in Hall Pass, a bland comedy from the Farrelly brothers.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are happily married to Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), respectively. Rick and Maggie have kids; Fred and Grace don’t. But neither couple is having all that much sex and both Rick and Fred find themselves eyeing other women. Not that they would ever cheat on their wives — but, if only.

After getting fed up with Rick’s behavior and on the advice of a friend (Joy Behar), Maggie decides to give Rick a hall pass — for one week, he can do whatever he wants, do whomever he wants, with no repercussions. She takes the kids and heads to her family’s house on the Cape for the week.

Grace soon follows suit with Fred, and Rick and Fred find themselves two “single” men on the make. At first, their single behavior mostly involves eating a lot of crappy food. But at the urging of their friends, they decide to make the sex-with-another-woman dream a reality and start hitting the scene — Applebee’s, a townie bar — and generally making jerks of themselves as they try to find women.

I think what bugs me most about this movie is best demonstrated in one scene: in one of the conversations where Fred tries to convince Rick that they should make the most of their hall pass, he says something like “your wife is living her dream.” As in, your wife, when she’s raising your kids and keeping your house and generally slipping into middle-aged shlubbery because she’s putting everybody else’s needs first, is living her dream. You should go out and have lots of sex and live your dream. Because same, same.
Uhm, huh.

Now, the movie does put this line into the mouth of a buffoon. And as the story unfolds, the hopes and desires of the wives become more a part of te story. And, while women often come off as harpies, pretty much all the men come off as morons. Though by some miracle they hold jobs, they can’t seem to do much else. The movie’s central joke — that Rick and Fred dream of these other women when they were clearly lucky to get the ones they did — is played out over and over until you start to wonder if these men are actually intellectually deficient in some way.

But the movie never stretches this Everybody Loves Raymond-esque tone beyond the expected jokes (which are made more irritating by Wilson’s stilted performance) and even does it with  less heart and less finesse than shows like Raymond do. It’s kind of exhausting watching characters shrill through the same jokes in scene after scene.

Not that this movie is a total waste. There are cute moments — the Law & Order-ish chung-chung that accompanies the title card announcing each day of the hall pass week. Watching the men try to find their talking-to-ladies skills has its moments and a scene where Rick sticks up for the middle-aged man to a snarky guy working at the coffee house actually approaches some smart humor. And the way Maggie’s story unfolds has promise — there were at least some stabs at making this more than just a canned Mars vs. Venus comedy. But there aren’t quite enough of these moments. I laughed, but I left feeling generally dissatisfied with the stale comedy that oozed throughout the movie.

C
Rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use. Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly and written by Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly, Kevin Barnett and Bobby Farrelly, Hall Pass is an hour and 38 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros.
 






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