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