Once, long ago, the Farrelly brothers made classy, tasteful movies like Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and Shallow Hal. Now they lower the bar with Hall Pass.
Rick (Owen Wilson) is married to Maggie (Jenna Fischer) with three kids, and he’s got a bit of a wandering eye. On it’s own it’s mostly harmless, but he’s egged on in his little indulgences of oafishness by his friends, particularly Fred (Jason Sudeikis). Fred, for his part, is married to Grace (Christina Applegate), who is also growing increasingly tired of his antics.
Enter Joy Behar. Well, yes, I know she’s really Maggie and Grace’s psychologist friend “Dr. Lucy”, but the woman simply cannot act to save her life. Her entire purpose is to be Joy Behar, deliver lines that sound like she’s reading them for the first time off of cue cards, and dump a massive load of didactic exposition all over the audience. If only that were the only massive load to be dumped.
Anyway, Joy Behar tells them that they should try giving their husbands a “hall pass” — a one week exemption from the normal rules of marriage. The premise is that once a guy is into his mid-to-late-30s the best he can hope for as a single man is to make a massive embarrassment of himself; given enough rope, these two jokers will hang themselves and come running back home.
Well, of course the guys are into this idea; the girls go off to Cape Cod for the week, leaving their husbands to their surely awful fates. And, of course, Rick and Fred commence to making massive embarrassments of themselves, aided and abetted by their friends (Stephen Merchant, J.B. Smoove, and Larry Joe Campbell). Unexpectedly, though, while the men are falling flat, the women find themselves at the receiving end of the Miami University baseball team’s attentions, and have their own dilemmas to deal with.
Now I know I usually leave the Bechdel test to a one-liner at the end, but I have to bring this one point up: do I really believe that the first and only thing that two women on vacation away from their husbands talk about is their husbands’ peccadilloes? Yes, it’s easy to say that nothing else can be expected from the Farrelly brothers, but it’s still worth pointing out. By emphasizing how these women’s lives start and end with their husbands, the film manages to insult the other half of it’s audience.
Fischer and Applegate are entirely underused, but so in their way are Wilson and Sudeikis. All four of these actors have serious comedic chops, and they’re reduced to dick-and-fart jokes between saying “vagina” as often as possible. Which I suppose is meant to be funny because, hey, women, am I right guys? At least that seems to be the mindset that went into the movie and that’s targeted in the audience.
Still, nobody ever went broke underestimating the American public’s tastes. The Farrelly brothers have hitched their brand to this train and they’re going to ride it all the way to the bottom. If an actor can pick up a good chunk of cash by joining them for a stop, I don’t suppose I can blame them. But I don’t have to like it; please remember that you don’t have to either.
Worth It: definitely not.
Bechdel Test: fail, of course.