With Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Jenna Fischer, Richard Jenkins. Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use. 105 minutes.
The Farrelly Brothers. Are they still around? Their last big hit was back in 1998, with “There’s Something About Mary.” Since then they’ve kept making movies, but no one seemed to care: “Me, Myself and Irene,” “Shallow Hal,” “Stuck on You,” “The Heartbreak Kid.” Now with HALL PASS, they’ve attempted the cinematic equivalent of the “Hail Mary” pass. They’ve cast the singularly untalented and annoying Owen Wilson in hopes that his supposed “charms” will bring their careers back to life.
Wilson and “SNL” star Jason Sudeikis play two husbands who, typical of Farrelly heroes, are essentially overgrown teenage boys. They may be middle-aged married guys, but they’re still obnoxious jerks. For contrived reasons that you have to accept to set the plot in motion, their wives (Christina Applegate, Jenna Fischer) give them a “hall pass.” The idea is that for one week, they have their wives’ permission to pretend they aren’t married. A friend of the wives suggests that this will help them get over the delusion that they’d be great studs if only they weren’t married.
If you’re still reading at this point convinced that this is the premise for a great comedy or, worse, your own marriage, then nothing that can be said will dissuade you from seeing it. Not telling you that there’s a “joke” about explosive diarrhea. Not telling you that there is running commentary on faking oral sex. Convinced that the reviewers panning this painfully unfunny comedy must really all be humorless prigs you will fork over your hard-earned dollars prepared to laugh yourself silly. When the end result is that you’re out the money and have had to endure the same awful movie you were being warned against, you might remember that movie reviews are not holy writ but they do serve as an early warning system.
The guys, of course, are complete jerks. They spend one night with their buddies pigging out on food and drink, and forgetting why they went out in the first place. Another time they eat brownies laced with marijuana. Yes, in 2011 the Farrellys still think that gag has some life to it. Meanwhile the wives are on their own vacation, and finding that they like being the focus of attentive men. Ooh, will they all end up cheating? Or will True Love save the day? We end up with a sappy, emotional finale in which both couples discover their true feelings.
There’s not much to say about the acting except that character actor Richard Jenkins seems to enjoy picking up a paycheck slumming in garbage like this. Is it really that hard for an Oscar nominee to make a living? Of the four leads, Applegate is probably the one who gets to walk away from this mess with her dignity intact. Perhaps she will someday find a movie role in which she can shine instead of merely survive.
With “Hall Pass,” there’s now over a decade’s worth of evidence that the Farrellys had their moment to shine and now it’s over. As they get older, the adolescent smirking gets less funny and more pathetic, like the former high school quarterback who can only drink heavily, get ever fatter and fetishize his glory days.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.