by Mel Valentin
The Farrelly Brothers ("The Heartbreak Kid," "Stuck on You," "Me, Myself & Irene," "Something About Mary," "Kingpin"), hoping to recover their comedic mojo after a half-decade in the box-office wilderness, are back with "Hall Pass," an R-rated sex comedy that mixes raunch with sap, crudity with sentiment, and vulgarity with pathos, all in the guise of exploring, examining, and dissecting the forty-something, hetero male psyche (i.e., middle-aged men behaving badly), with only negligible, infrequent, irregular success to show for their collective efforts. What you’ll remember, if you remember anything at all, will have little or nothing to do with "Hall Pass’" attempts at tenderness, warmth, or romanticism, and everything to do with dick and fart jokes of the most cringe-inducing kind.Hall Pass centers on Rick (a doughy Owen Wilson), a Providence, Rhode Island-based real estate broker, his wife and mother of three, Maggie (Jenna Fischer), and Rick’s best friend, Fred (Jason Sudeikis, late of The Daily Show), an insurance salesman married to Grace (Christina Applegate). Given the usual rigors of parenthood, Rick and Maggie don’t have much time for sex and when they do, Maggie’s too exhausted, frustrating the easily frustrated Rick even more. Fred and Grace don’t have any children, but their marriage has devolved into partnership without sexual intimacy. Fred, a frustrated horndog through and through, wants sex, as often as possible. Grace, however, doesn’t seem inclined to indulge Fred’s over-active libido, at least not regularly, compelling Fred to “rub one off” in the relative safety of a parked car (a gag used in last year’s execrable Due Date, made slightly funnier for the two cops who spy Fred in action and react unexpectedly).
"Like (excrement-stained) manna from the gods..."
Everything comes to a head (so to speak) when, pushed too far by Rick and Fred’s misbehavior at a get together, Maggie and Grace decide to give them the “hall pass” of the title: a consequence- and guilt-free week off from marriage. While Rick and Fred salivate at the prospect of chasing (and bedding) women 10-, 15-, even 20-years younger, Maggie heads off for her father’s summer cottage in Cape Cod, Rhode Island, kids (who we never see again) and Grace (for convenience’s sake) in tow. While Rick and Fred stumble, fumble, and bumble their way through a series of misadventures, Maggie and Grace spend their unexpected vacation time with members of a local minor league team, Maggie with the older, grizzled manager, Rick Coleman (Bruce Thomas), and Grace with a naïve, pretty-boy minor leaguer, Gerry (Tyler Hoechlin).
Dropping in over-obvious product placement (e.g., Applebee’s, Olive Garden, McDonalds, etc.), Rick and Fred are, at least initially, joined by their best friends and poker buddies, Gary (Stephen Merchant), a lanky, awkward Brit, Hog-Head (Larry Joe Campbell), the obligatory fat guy, Flats (J.B. Smoove), the token black guy (because every mainstream Hollywood comedy needs one, if only to avoid charges of intentional [or unintentional] racism by unenlightened filmmakers and studio executives). They’re just around as not-so-innocent bystanders, living vicariously through Rick and Fred’s respective “hall passes.” As plot (Rick and Fred) and subplot (Maggie and Grace) head toward predictable life lesson-, monogamy-affirming resolutions (dull and dour for some moviegoers, dire and depressing for others), Rick has to overcome a major temptation in the form of Leigh (Nicky Whelan), a blonde, blue-eyed barista, and Coakley (Richard Jenkins), a sixty-something, perpetual party "boy,” who coaches Rick and Fred in how to pursue and bed single women half their age.Slipping back to the tried-and-true (and trite) formula that made them, however briefly, a box-office brand, the Farrelly Brothers mix outrageous verbal humor (Fred’s sex-obsessed crudity to Rick’s straight-man stumbling) with several gross-out gags. The gross-out gags (most of which won’t be spoiled here) are, if nothing else, memorable, but they also reek of been-there-seen-that familiarity and over-obvious, top-this desperation. Add to that an overlong, over-indulgent running time, a building-toward-farce that never actually reaches the level of farce, and unearned sentimentality and the result is another almost-but-not-quite strikeout for the Farrelly Brothers. However sporadic, though, the physical gags, verbal humor, and semi-star power may be just enough to give them the Farrelly Brothers their first hit in half a decade (or more).
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20783&reviewer=402
originally posted: 02/25/11 16:00:00