Near-as-damned impossible to view the Farrelley brothers’ latest comedy as anything but a set of outtakes from The Hangover, viewers will nonetheless find something distinctly more schmaltzy about Hall Pass.
The narrative’s lifeblood runs in the same vein as 2009’s outrageous, drunken recollection comedy. Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play Rick and Fred, married men whose respective wives, Maggie and Grace, feel their sex-obsessed husbands are losing interest in them. Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate learn of an experimental method of rejuvenating their marriages: giving their husbands a week off from marriage – hence the title of the movie.
Over the course of seven days of mayhem and catastrophe Wilson and Sudeikis share some side-rendingly funny conversations. Sudeikis’ first major big-screen role fits him very snugly, and Wilson is characteristically moral, aptly corny and fatherly without being overbearing. Seeing this film in light of The Hangover, Wilson is however no Bradley Cooper, one of the immoral stars of Todd Philips’ film, and schmaltzy sentiment-toting Wilson playing the libertine is a little like Robin Williams playing the stalker in One Hour Photo – it just doesn’t ring true.
Supporting Wilson and Sudeikis, a motley crew cast of old buddies includes Stephen Merchant and Richard Jenkins (you know, John C. Reilly’s father in Step Brothers). Strangely, as their characters don’t have hall passes themselves they provide only the spectators to the main duo’s rampage. The butt of some very funny gags during the first half of Wilson and Sudeikis’ week, they are virtually non-existant during most of the second half of the movie. These characters seem to exist only to bolster Wilson and Sudeikis’ roles: as Jenkins’ sex-weathered character puts it, “to make an eight look like a ten.” As always, the Farrelley brothers couldn’t complete a movie without satisfying their penchant for casting sports stars in their films – watch out for a sneaky cameo from former Major League Baseball player Dwight Evans as Maggie’s father.
Like every Farrelley brothers movie, Hall Pass doesn’t know whether it’s a gross-out comedy or a touching romantic comedy. This latest offering tries to do both in equal measure. There are some truly disgusting moments, but these are countered with complex issues about license and freedom. The concept functions well enough, but the synthesis is an awkward one which narrowly avoids cancelling the two genres out and leaving the viewer with nothing to take home.