After a successful string of movies in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Farrelly Brothers have had a shaky track record lately. Their newest directorial effort, Hall Pass, is the most recent entry in the raunchy adult comedy genre revitalized by Judd Apatow and his contemporaries over the past decade. It doesn’t quite live up to the Apatow standard, but impressive chemistry and an inherent likability between the leads makes this an easy movie to digest.
Owen Wilson has had some issues in his personal life in the past few years, but all of that seems like ancient history for him here. He’s back – not quite his full self, it seems, but invested enough to keep us entertained throughout. The aloof schtick, his bread and butter, is firing on almost every cylinder once again, and as enjoyable as Wilson is to watch, I think this movie is further proof that he’s just a small part of a greater equation: he needs someone to bounce back that rapid-fire dialogue. In Hall Pass, Wilson’s partner in crime is current SNL star Jason Sudeikis, shining here as he makes the transition to leading man after a solid supporting turn in one of 2010’s best romantic comedies, Going the Distance. The two work very well together, coming close to the phenomenal chemistry of Wilson and Vince Vaughn in 2005’s underrated Wedding Crashers. They play suburban husbands granted a “hall pass” by their wives – one week off from marriage, in which they can theoretically do whatever they want (read: have sex with whoever they can).
On the female side of the gender line, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate aren’t given as much to work with, but the actresses are equally capable at throwing quips and digs as their male counterparts. (This project actually marks a reunion for Sudeikis and Applegate, who also co-starred in Going the Distance.) This film is being told from mostly the male perspective – take a look at the Farrelly Brothers’ filmography and this shouldn’t come as a surprise – so most of the best zingers go to Wilson and Sudeikis. While many of the best moments of the film are seen in the trailers, one of my favorite sequences comes during an ill-timed conversation between the two male leads during a housewarming party for a rich couple: the rest of the party – including the wives – has moved into a safe room and listens in as the guys spout off a serious of wildly inappropriate comments about the people at the party, completely unaware they’re being eavesdropped upon.
This movie has its moments, but ultimately I’d say it’s just worth a rental. There wasn’t anything that truly separated it from other films of this kind, and the script felt watered down at times, with the kind of typical story beats that make you roll your eyes if you’ve seen more then fifteen movies in your life. It’s the kind of thing you hope a movie like this might have the balls to rise above, but disappointingly this isn’t that kind of movie – it’s still a studio comedy, and though it’s certainly funny at points, it’s not all that special in the grand scheme of things. Hall Pass is better than its release date would indicate – for you newbies out there, early months of the year are typically dumping grounds for terrible films – and it works as a nice little buddy comedy for the male leads, but it won’t change your life.
I could spend a few more paragraphs nitpicking some plot points and details (including some of the worst Photoshopped family photos I’ve ever seen on film), but this isn’t the kind of movie that deserves that kind of attention to detail. It knows what it is, and embraces its identity as best it can – Hall Pass is a studio comedy that attempts to push the boundaries at times (including a full frontal male nudity scene that makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall looks like a kid’s movie), but succeeds mainly as a showcase for satisfying chemistry between Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis. Until next time…