What happens when you give your horny hubby the week off marriage? He turns into a desirable sex god to the younger female, of course. This is the wild premise explored in the Farrelly Brothers’ latest ‘slap-and-tickle’, but equally sentimental comedy, Hall Pass, and it sounds ripe for the comedy taking. Depending on your version of ‘comedy’ that is, and the directors’ previous appeal – not counting the iconic There’s Something About Mary, you’ll either love or loathe this film. It all hangs on whether you can get past the first crass ‘gag’ that involves a young kid commenting on his mother’s lower figure to his father. If that irks you, the rest is lost in history. Expect the expected, and you’ll snigger with laughter. If you’ve long grown out of humour involving boobs, willies and bodily functions, all delivered by grown men and their fantasies, be warned; it’s going to be a long 105 minutes – and then some, with additional extras happening in the end credits.
The story follows happily married Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis of Saturday Night Live fame) who are given a week off their respective marriages to get their lusting for hotter, younger females off their chests, once and for all, after being caught eyeing women’s posteriors by their spouses. At the same time, their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), discover they, too, have a free pass to ‘explore’ possibilities. When things don’t go to plan, both sexes discover that age-old wisdom that ‘home is where the heart is’.
The first two things this viewer couldn’t get past was Owen Wilson’s oddly shaped ‘conservative’ hairstyle – to try and depict him as a responsible father, perhaps, and putting the wives in gaudy dresses for a launch party would, somehow, render the highly attractive Applegate and Fischer bland and undesirable. We are (eventually) meant to believe that both men ‘have steak at home, but want to sample a dirty burger out’. So, quite why both wives are dressed in this way is strange and doesn’t serve any purpose.
As a female, too, the other thing that was disappointing was not getting to see more screen-time of Applegate who is a power force of comedy talent, and whose character Grace is woefully underused. Fischer just plays cute and sensitive with ease, but the feisty Applegate has a lot more tricks to have really made the couples’ dynamic and marriage tedium exploration more interesting. Still, it is a film about the boys, made by boys, so the Farrellys stay put in familiar goofball territory.
There are the inevitable ‘shock tactics’ and running masturbation joke. But if you know the Farrellys’ style, these shouldn’t really surprise you. Apart from boobs on show, there is a prolonged shot of two apposing-sized male appendages, plus a bathtub ‘explosion’ when a girl sneezes. The latter was unexpected and admittedly hilarious, regardless of all the post-tasteless comments. It’s all very juvenile, but still raises a giggle, regardless of the cynics.
In comparison to his other hair-brained characters, Wilson seems to play down the idiot in this, trying to portray an adult side, and letting his new sidekick Sudeikis take over the crazy reigns. Wilson adopts his usual ‘little boy wounded’ mode of acting, though, keeping it all formulaic. But the pair has a good and believable bond in the film as best friends and ‘hunting partners’. Teamed up with Richard Jenkins playing the free-loving womaniser Coakley, the trio really seem burnt-out and pathetic, adding to the delicious irony of their chosen parts. Bizarrely-cast as a token Brit, Stephen Merchant is the biggest fool of them all, going into overdrive as Gary, as though he’s making up for lost comedy infantile time – and, thankfully, no Gervais in sight. Again, depending on your patience, Merchant will either delight or grate. Thankfully, it was the latter, possibly because his character, along with the other pals, disappears for a bit, after creating a golf club incident, leaving the ‘Wilson and Sudeikis’ show to navigate until the end when they all pop back up again.
Hall Pass is like a poor man’s The Hangover from the same studio that gave us the former, in terms of grown men going forth to explore one last time. But it isn’t without its own enjoyment factor, even though it heavily relies on cheap stereotypes to bolster the laughs. Ironically, what it does have is an enthusiastic affection and respect for committed couples, tied up in a rather sappy ending. It may well be that it will appeal more to those in a lengthy relationships who may have recognised some ‘humdrum’ signs, and considering this hitched viewer went along with the hubby, it was an entertaining date movie offering. So, like the Farrelly Brothers’ gags in it, there won’t be any apologies for admitting that.