More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.16%
Worth A Look: 26.55%
Pretty Bad: 17.7%
Total Crap: 9.73%

6 reviews, 77 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Bacurau by Jay Seaver

Whistlers, The by Jay Seaver

Fly Me to the Saitama by Jay Seaver

Fantastic Fungi by Jay Seaver

Ode to Nothing by Jay Seaver

Dance with Me by Jay Seaver

Purity of Vengeance (Journal 64), The by Jay Seaver

Cencoroll Connect by Jay Seaver

8 by Jay Seaver

Incredible Shrinking Wknd, The by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Shallow Hal
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Andrew Howe

"Not as shallow as you might expect"
3 stars

If you believe the personal ads and internet dating sites, personality is the most important factor in evaluating a potential partner. Sense of humour, romantic inclination, compassionate and nurturing conduct: they’re the dating buzzwords for the new millennium, but we give it all away in the final sentence. There, amidst the caring, sharing smokescreen, you will find those three cold words – “Must have photo”.

We can mouth our empty platitudes until we’re blue in the face, screaming to the rafters that we’re not shallow, that looks don’t enter into it, that there’s beauty in all things if you know where to look, and sometimes we might even believe it. But there’s one immutable fact which undermines our best intentions, one facet of human interaction that’s hardwired into our emotional radars, and it’s this: we will initially judge prospective partners by their appearance. Can’t help it, yer Honour – rational thought is no match for the primal thrust of white-hot lust, and don’t forget that our travelling companion reflects on us, so if we align ourselves with someone who comes up short in the physical beauty department it sends the world the message that that’s the best we can get. And so we keep on dancing as fast as we can, saying one thing and doing another, until the day comes when we either practice what we preach or resign ourselves to a lifelong quest for an unattainable goal.

Which brings us to Shallow Hal, the latest film by those wacky Farrelly Brothers, the enfants terribles who redefined the gross-out genre with There’s Something About Mary. There’s no zipper circumcisions or hair gel substitutes this time around – it’s a surprisingly low-key affair, and the end result is the better for their uncharacteristic restraint.

If Hal (Jack Black) drafted one of those personal ads I was talking about earlier, this is what it would say: “Business executive looking to play outside his league seeks drop-dead gorgeous female to act as fashion accessory. Personality optional.” Needless to say, Hal spends most of his time collecting rejection slips and hanging out with his pal Mauricio (Jason Alexander), but a certain well-known motivational speaker convinces him of the error of his ways. From that moment on Hal’s messed up mind convinces him that every woman he would normally cross the street to avoid is a beauty to rival Aphrodite, and in short order he’s putting the moves on Rosemary, a 300-pound loser in love who, to Jack, looks suspiciously like Gwyneth Paltrow.

Any concerns about Black’s ability to service a lead role are swiftly dispelled - his confrontational performance in High Fidelity is but a distant memory, replaced by an easygoing affability that occasionally borders on charm. Hal is never entirely likeable (he’s certainly as shallow as the film’s title suggests), but there are moments when he finds the basic humanity that resides within us all. You could be forgiven for thinking that the role was written with Black in mind, and if his career finally takes off (as I suspect it might) he’ll have the Farrelly Brothers’ faith in his abilities to thank.

It’s been over twelve months since I’ve been able to write about Paltrow without using the word “endearing” at least once, and I’m not about to start now. She’s charged with communicating Rosemary’s loneliness and self-doubt while looking like a million dollars, and anyone who witnessed her performances in Duets and Bounce will know that she’s up to the task. Her facial expression during Rosemary’s initial meeting with Hal is worth a thousand words, and the touching fragility that has become her stock-in-trade is central to the film’s success.

Jason Alexander is the weak link, since he seems to be under the impression that he’s reprising his role from Seinfeld. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does result in a disconcerting sense of déjà vu, and his character exists solely to drive the narrative towards its desired conclusion. None of the other supporting players fare any better, though Joe Viterelli proves that he would have been a reasonable second choice for the De Niro role in Meet the Parents.

The script can be viewed on two levels, since it’s an attempt to mix “straight” comedy with social commentary. There’s surprisingly few belly laughs, and most of the humour isn’t particularly inspired, but since it’s pitched at a higher level than the likes of Dumb and Dumber you can rest assured that your time will be better spent.

You may also find yourself in the uncomfortable position of laughing at the misfortunes of others – we’ve been raised to believe that poking fun at someone’s appearance is the mark of the terminally insensitive, but it’s hard to suppress a guilty chuckle as Hal trips the light fantastic with a pack of unattractive women or watches a chair buckle under his girlfriend’s weight. The film invites us to examine our reactions to these scenes, and what we discover may not be entirely flattering, which is not something you’d expect to encounter in a supposedly lightweight comedy.

However, I wouldn’t like to give the impression that the script critically examines our capacity for denigrating those who don’t measure up to our ideals of physical perfection, pointedly condemns the shallowness which infiltrates our interaction with our fellow man, or does anything other than scratch the surface of its underlying theme. There’s some nice touches (beautiful but mean spirited females appearing to Hal as wasted crones, for example) and several scenes that deliver the goods, but the Farrellys are more concerned with keeping the film motoring along than with taking the time to dig a little deeper. Whether we have a right to expect anything more is another matter, but the low quota of laughs suggests that they approached the script with a certain serious intent, so it’s unfortunate that they didn’t build on their capably constructed foundation. The film also suffers from an extended running time (close to two hours) which results in some obvious filler, and the pat ending applies the moral of the story with a jackhammer.

Shallow Hal is certainly flawed, and the laughs are few and far between, but two fine performances and the thought-provoking subject matter raise it above the level of a disposable comedy. The script lacks the incisiveness that might have seen it hit us where it really hurts, but the uneasy feeling that we’ve been called to account for our own unspoken prejudice leaves little doubt that some of the punches find their mark.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/27/01 12:58:24
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

8/29/12 roscoe fair, but hardly funny. black is likeable, not funny. highlight is alexander's co-star role 3 stars
1/17/11 JM Synth Watchable but misguided and confused, not to mention sappy and low on jokes 2 stars
4/28/10 art SHALLOW is RIGHT! 1 stars
8/04/09 the dork knight Overly-complicated misfire. Paltrow sells her performance at the end. 3 stars
6/14/09 Dane Youssef Not just one long fat joke. Not just one spoon-fed trite moral. Hilarious, deep & heartfelt 4 stars
8/17/08 John Millheim I guess I could say its funny, but I am not going to, boring 2 stars
6/30/08 Jeff Anderson Surprisingly sweet & one of the Farrelly Bros. best in recent years. Paltrow is very good. 5 stars
4/02/08 Robbie Great movie funny and has great morals in it as well 5 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White Wonderful movie of how people are judged 5 stars
12/10/07 Witch Hazel Good film but hypocritical about its own message. 3 stars
11/04/07 David Cohen Not bad, but can't live up to its own pretentions 3 stars
7/06/07 mrsinister Even Jack Black disowned it! 2 stars
6/01/07 ES It's inconsistent as the rules associated with his condition are very unclear, but still ok 4 stars
2/16/07 johnnyfog Just because it has a positive message, doesn't make it good 2 stars
11/04/06 becky it tries to be funny, but succeeds only in showing how we all are shallow 2 stars
12/14/05 Ginger Great movie, very funny and sweet! 5 stars
8/18/05 John Aster Habig Jack Black is as always funny but the surprise is a Farrelly movie w/heart 5 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig Really wonderful film about where value really is found. Black was great 5 stars
10/11/04 Dan Funny, Emotional, Entertaining....good movie. 4 stars
9/19/04 crystal it's quite sweet~ 4 stars
2/20/04 Dr. lecter The most predictable movie ever made 2 stars
1/25/04 Rapunzel Gladstone Jason Alexander a riot? Too bad he married Britney Spears! 3 stars
10/20/03 Phil M. Aficionado Fun to watch despite its several flaws Fluff, with a few laughs. 3 stars
10/07/03 JohnnyXXX Not stupid at all. It's funny, lighthearted. Don't be so uptight!! 4 stars
4/19/03 Jack Sommersby Not a laugh to be found. Godawful. 1 stars
2/20/03 Dave Good moral mesage and some moderately funny moments, but the rest is very predictable. 3 stars
2/17/03 Yaris Roshenko Whadyaknow? Gwyneth Paltrow's first movie in which she doesn't think her shit don't stink. 4 stars
2/01/03 Paul Coleman Simple minded yet fun and entertaining. One of those 'feel good' movies. 4 stars
1/30/03 NWO4LIFE extremely likeable, sweet movie. Jason Alexander is a riot. 4 stars
1/27/03 Kool-Aid-Drunk Love Rosey's so fat, when kids cry, "Hey Kool-Aid Woman!" Will Hal go Barry Egan on 'em? 4 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Gwyneth is fine. Movie interesting but pretty silly too.. 4 stars
12/30/02 John Aster Habig Dry and intelligent, crazy and zany the romcom of my generation 5 stars
9/20/02 Interesting concept, but it was kinda hippocritical in making fun of "fat people" 3 stars
8/18/02 scott stupid but still really funny 5 stars
8/14/02 Danielle Ophelia Hollywood's standard cliche of fat person = living target. Had spark, but no real heart. 3 stars
8/13/02 Fish Eye Better than I thought. Good story, had a point, and it was funny. 4 stars
8/06/02 Bill Shallow Hal is boring and dull. 2 stars
8/03/02 Yaris Roshenko Whadyaknow? Gwyneth Paltrow's first movie in which she doesn't think her shit don't stink. 4 stars
7/27/02 Punk_Ass Nothing over the top but funny and has a message. Could have been a lot worse, and better 4 stars
7/12/02 KMG First of all JACK sucks ASS...second of all this movie reeked 2 stars
7/10/02 The Bomb 69 Just not funny enough, few haha's otherwise boring. 2 stars
7/07/02 Film Guy Not very funny. kinda depressing at the end 2 stars
7/04/02 spyguy2 Sweet, funny comedy. Couple of laughs but not a typical Farrelly bro film. 4 stars
6/05/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi im ashamed of the farrelly bro's 1 stars
5/20/02 Holly very good film and I love Zen gesner in this movie 4 stars
3/02/02 Ricky It had it's moments 4 stars
2/28/02 Chowie I want my $10 back 1 stars
1/25/02 Yaris Roshenko Whadyaknow? Gwyneth Paltrow's first movie in which she doesn't think her shit don't stink 4 stars
1/09/02 gigantic fat woman the funniest movie i've seen since "Shooting Niggers". 5 stars
1/09/02 big boy its ffuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnyyyyyy 5 stars
12/26/01 Roy Smith Hypocritical but occassionally funny, saved in the last 10 minutes. 3 stars
12/25/01 Jeremy too cool 5 stars
12/21/01 Mister Char farrelleys best movie since "Say it isn't so," which also sucked, die mr. hat 1 stars
12/03/01 seldom scene farrelleys fell flat!! not enough comedy, too average 2 stars
11/30/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) E.P. and burly should go fuck themselves. The Farrellys are fucking awesome. mel is my pal. 4 stars
11/30/01 sophie good but I've seen better 3 stars
11/29/01 Lori Great movie - anyone who is offended by this should just lighten up! 4 stars
11/29/01 mel i thought it was a good movie.. and by the way, it wasn't just about weight. lighten up!! 5 stars
11/28/01 E.P. insulting to all intelligent humans, regardless of weight 1 stars
11/28/01 berly gives people one last group to make fun of--the overweight. Despicable. 1 stars
11/28/01 Tim I kept hoping it would end 2 stars
11/27/01 Kathleen Greene I hated this film so much that I walked out and asked for my money back. 1 stars
11/26/01 Jessie H. Ahroni horrid 1 stars
11/26/01 Kyle Anderson I liked Jack Black in Saving Silverman, but after watching that movie he ruined his image. 2 stars
11/19/01 Mister Char This was a piece of shit, i hope the Farrelly brother choke 1 stars
11/17/01 Dada A good solid Gwyneth movie 5 stars
11/16/01 G-Man Fat chicks must sweat the whole way through this one in a crowded theatre. 4 stars
11/15/01 Janitor61 pretty good, fatties around the world are rejoicing 5 stars
11/15/01 xray nice surprise 4 stars
11/13/01 Bo Paltrow's ass is worth the price of addmission 4 stars
11/12/01 Butterbean A cute flick, but a little too light on the jokes 4 stars
11/12/01 Caiphn 'fairy deep' is a good thing? Wasn't as good as I expected. 3 stars
11/11/01 tjk It was funny, but also is fairy deep 5 stars
11/11/01 Dead In The Theater More boorish Farrelly horseshit - THEY are the ugly ones 1 stars
11/10/01 ajay thought it was crappy because I expect a Farrelly brothers movie. 2 stars
11/04/01 LeaLea very funny - laughed out loud several times and had a positive ending 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  09-Nov-2001 (PG-13)



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast