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Hall Pass

I bet there are plenty of guys that would love to get a week off from marriage and have the freedom to do whatever (and whomever) they want. But if it were to happen, most men wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. They may attempt to pick up girls, probably to no avail. Some may even realize they’re happier without their wives holding them down. Most men, however, would most likely miss their wives and wish to be back together with them. One thing’s for sure—whatever they did would have little similarities to the events in Hall Pass. The latest comedy from the Farrelly Brothers takes this premise and runs with it, slowly becoming more and more ridiculous as it goes on, presenting a tonally uneven film that manages to string out only a small number of good laughs.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are two middle aged men who have been married for many years to their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), respectively. After years of ogling other women, however, Maggie and Grace become fed up and give the guys a “hall pass,” a week off from marriage to do whatever they want. So they leave for the week, hoping this time away will make them appreciate what they have. What they don’t expect, however, is for the guys to take the opportunity to try and hook up with other women, but that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are perfectly cast in Hall Pass. They look the part (not ugly, but not particularly attractive either), they dress the part (walking around with their shirts tucked in and a simple parted hairdo) and they have a middle aged verbal swagger. They boast to each other that if it weren’t for their wives, they could be sleeping with every girl they run into. Their egos make them think they’re God’s gift to women. The problem is that while they talk a big game, they lack the actual skills to back that talk up.

And when they finally get that coveted hall pass from their wives, it shows. They stumble through their words as they talk to women, they use cheesy pick up lines that any respectable lady would scoff at and their ideal hook up spot is Applebee’s. Needless to say, all of their initial attempts to pick up somebody fail. But they remain optimistic nonetheless. They just know they'll get someone tomorrow. In these early moments, Hall Pass deftly explores the male mentality, which is full of macho talk and a certain cockiness that leads them to believe that, if given the chance, any girl would fall for them and be willing to hop in the sack.

Unfortunately, these hints at intelligent deliberation become overshadowed by a raunchy screenplay full of male nudity and bodily secretions. However, its over-the-topness in itself is not the problem. It’s the mixture of that outrageousness with the quiet events prior. The first 30 minutes are like a PG-13 movie, with little swearing or overt sexuality, which makes its sudden explosion into childishness seem all the more abrupt. Even worse, the last few minutes are full of cutesy speeches and redemptive confessions. Some loose ends are even purposely skipped over.

It’s possible to effectively combine heart with bawdiness, but the two elements need to be mixed together, not simply placed end to end. Transitions from the simple beginning to the crude middle and finally to the gooey ending come off as awkward and do not work. There are a handful of laughs to be had in Hall Pass, but not nearly enough and the clumsy emotional construction of the narrative is difficult to look past.

Hall Pass receives 2/5


Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

A few weeks back my Marmaduke review carried the headline, “Talking Dogs Will Never Be Funny.” After making a statement so matter-of-factly, it’s only a matter of time before it comes back to haunt you. One day, I will see a talking dog movie that is funny. Today is not that day. The latest film to bleed my ears dry with the inherent nonsense of a talking animal picture is Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, the unnecessary sequel to the 2001 original.

In the first film, we learned that all dogs and cats are natural enemies (spoiler alert!). Their factions had been in a long term battle for supremacy amongst the humans. The dogs took the title of “man’s best friend” to heart while the cats hoped to eliminate them and become the new household pet. In the sequel, not much has changed. Kitty Galore (voiced by Bette Midler) has a similar plan. She plans to make all the dogs in the world go mad, which would turn them against their owners who would have no choice but to lock them up. However, Kitty’s plan would also harm the humans, something the good cats in the M.E.O.W. squad don’t want, which forces them and the dogs at D.O.G. Headquarters to team up against their will. Headed by Butch (voiced by Nick Nolte) and joined by new recruit Diggs (voiced by James Marsden) and M.E.O.W. agent Catherine (voiced by Christina Applegate), they set out to stop Kitty and keep the natural balance.

I’ll admit. I enjoyed the original. The reason for that is due to its grounding in its own fictional world. It played it straight, imaginative and fun. In the sequel, it branches out into spoof territory taking on Scarface, Terminator, The Silence of the Lambs and referencing the James Bond series, quite literally, dozens of times. Its shameless attempts to pander to the adult audience is depressing and unfunny. They won’t work even for those familiar with the pictures it’s joking on, so don't expect the kids to understand. It’s a lose-lose situation all around.

If there’s one thing in the world I hate, it’s animal puns. If you’ve ever seen a live action talking animal movie, you’ve heard one. They’re insufferable and grating, the least funny of all jokes on the laugh spectrum, and they’re in spades here. To put it simply, Marmaduke now has a serious contender for one of the most annoying movies of the year. Take for instance the vehicle the dogs ride in to get to D.O.G. Headquarters that, upon arriving at their destination, is put into “Stay” rather than “Park.”

Most jokes play out one of those two ways: animal gags or film references. It’s only about an hour and 20 minutes long, but you’ll hear every tick of the clock as the seconds go by. Five minutes will seem like ten. Ten will seem like twenty. Twenty will feel like an hour.

There’s not much else to say that hasn’t been said before, either in other reviews or about previous films in the genre. You either like these things or you don’t. Personally, with only one or two exceptions, I loathe them. Cats and Dogs may have gotten by in 2001 for being somewhat original in a genre that had yet to be exploited, but its sequel is merely another drop in the bucket of talking dog movies as far as I’m concerned.

Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore receives 1/5