Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hall Pass

Hall Pass
Grade: D
Cast: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate
Director: Peter and Bobby Farrelly

During their heyday in the nineties culminating in There’s Something About Mary, the Farrelly brothers had the power to shock you into submission.

It wasn’t just that the films made you laugh. They made you laugh involuntarily. They made you laugh against your will. Which is the best sort of laughter.

They were often made of disgusting raunch, yes. But the brothers also had a clever eye for satire, one that seems to have disappeared while watching Hall Pass.

Too bad, really. The skills might have been a promising combination for the premise of Hall Pass. Two horndog husbands get permission from their wives to take a week’s holiday from marriage. That’s an idea in search of surprising satire.

The brothers seem to have lost all their sense of daring. They left a predictable film in its place. Has there been a movie lately that takes so much time to go to the safe place that it’s obviously going? There is no danger that anyone is going to do anything that they regret. The brothers have lost all their daring.

Hall Pass is a fantasy of emasculation. It traffics in the currently vogue sitcom notion of grown-up men as dorky weaklings. It’s a cheap gag, to make men seem hopeless, and there’s something enormously unappealing about it. This doesn’t feel more real than watching Dork and Dorkier frog march toward the inevitable moment when they beg for their wives’ pardon. It makes marriage look like a prison. Worse, it makes marriage feel like a prison. The only real prison, though, is this movie.

And that’s what really stood out amid all the flat characters and phony predicaments and stale hijinks that barely deserve the words hijinks. Why would anyone want to spend two hours watching these de-balled men. Why are men such easy targets? Why stretch the caricature until it’s no longer amusing? Men may be hopeless. But they’re not this hopeless.

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