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'Hall Pass' is a raunchy but funny romp

FILM REVIEW

February 28, 2011|BY BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Jason Sudeikis, left, and Owen Wilson star in "Hall Pass."
Warner Bros.

I once ate six chocolate doughnuts as my breakfast. I also laughed a few too many times at "Hall Pass." Both made me feel guilty, and both were disgusting in retrospect, but both are undeniably true.  

The premise of "Hall Pass" is appalling in and of itself. Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are married, but they can't stop looking at other women. This is a constant embarrassment to their respective wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate).  

In addition to being embarrassed, the wives are also worried that their husbands are beginning to regret their decision to settle down with one woman. A friend suggests that they give their husbands a one-week "Hall Pass," where they have no obligation to marital fidelity. The women scoff at the idea, but change their minds after one act of borderline disloyalty too many.

Rick and Fred have the week to hook up with other women. This is supposed to get cheating out of their system and make their marriages stronger, but there are plenty of holes. What if they like the women they meet more than their wives?  What if they strike out? Will they regret getting married if they figure their marriage took them away from meeting other women?  There are a lot of potential disasters with a Hall Pass, but the men can't see past the thrill of getting to hook up with other women.  

The rest of the film is mostly Rick and Fred and their attempts to get action. The guys are at least in their mid-30s, so they're out of touch with the dating scene.

They mistake chain restaurants for singles hot spots (funny as an idea, but dragged out too long).

They use ultra-cheesy pick-up lines (hit and miss).

They abuse drugs and alcohol because they think it will calm their nerves (very funny when they turn out to be total messes).  

Fred has an embarrassing experience at a massage parlor (predictable). Rick has a disaster at a health club (predictable but exaggerated to where it works). They meet up with an old friend (Richard Jenkins) who is an expert at picking up loose women (funny only for the sight of the blinged-out Jenkins). They get on the wrong side of a coffee shop jerk (Derek Waters) who later becomes a real threat  (funny although things turn dark). I certainly can't say that these scenes are in good taste, but I also can't deny that many of them are funny.  

Fred is fine with the idea of hooking up with a random girl, Rick has a specific one (Nicky Whelan) in mind. As far as I could tell this was the only difference between the two characters and the only justification for having two leads. I guess the film wants us to see two types of approaches to the situation.  

Apparently the film wants us to give serious thought to what a hall pass can do for a marriage. This is a mistake, because the film is too dumb to lend any kind of unique insight to the concept of marital fidelity and its boundaries.

"Hall Pass" isn't at its best when it tries to be sweet or serious. It is little more than a dirty, morally deprived comedy, and it should have done more to embrace that label.  The thing is that it actually works as a dirty, morally-deprived comedy.  

Sudeikis is funny almost every time he opens his mouth and Wilson gets his share of laughs as well. The directors are Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who built their careers on vulgar jokes and gross-out gags, and the film will be remembered for having several notorious variations of both.  

I can't say for sure if you'll enjoy "Hall Pass," but I can guarantee that you'll feel dirty afterward. You're the film's target audience if you take that as a recommendation.  


Three stars out of five.  


"Hall Pass" is rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity, and drug use.  Its running time is 113 minutes.

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