‘Hall Pass’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 22nd, 2011 at 7:58 pm,

Hall Pass Review Hall Pass Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Hall Pass

Hall Pass, the most recent Hangover-inspired comedy to hit the big screen, is also the latest offering from the notorious director team/brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly.

Throughout the seventeen years since the pair’s breakout hit Dumb and Dumber turned a $17 million production budget into a $247 million total box office gross, the Farrelly Brothers have seen their share of critical success (There’s Something About Mary) and failures (The Heartbreak Kid). However, despite the ups and downs, the Farrelly name still carries weight at the cineplex. Has their latest film, Hall Pass, earned a place alongside their critical successes – or have the brothers once again crossed the line from comedy into tastelessness?

While it’s unlikely that Hall Pass will challenge Dumb and Dumber or There’s Something About Mary for the top spot (or even second or third spot) on Farrelly Brother best and worst lists, it’s a serviceable comedy outing with a number of surprisingly funny moments, along with a number of shocking, but dumb-witted, set-ups – as well as a dopey (and unsurprising) conclusion to the film’s central premise.

If you’re unfamiliar with said premise, check out the official synopsis:

Best friends Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) have each been married for a long time, and they are showing signs of restlessness. To revitalize their marriages, their wives grant Rick and Fred one week to do whatever they please, no questions asked. At first, the deal sounds like a dream come true, but soon these two best pals discover that their expectations are wildly out of sync with reality.

While the brothers managed to recruit a competent cast for Hall Pass, in the past, standout performances were responsible for taking the often-absurd comedy set-pieces of the Farrelly films and turning them into genuine and relatable comedy gold. Unfortunately, none of the actors in Hall Pass ever manage to take a performance beyond the basic on-screen shtick into a lasting, and memorable, territory.

Hall Pass Owen Wilson Jason Sudeikis Hall Pass Review

Jason Sudeikis and Owen Wilson in a scene from 'Hall Pass'

Owen Wilson fits easily into his usual flat but likable everyman, managing to keep the audience on his side – even as a married man on the prowl. SNL alum, Jason Sudeikis, is featured more prominently here than in his prior work (mostly TV guest spots and a few supporting film roles) and is capable enough as Wilson’s less-restrained sidekick. Though, on frequent occasion, he’s relegated to the victim of the film’s more absurd gag set-ups (much like Jason Alexander in Shallow Hal).

Rounding out the couples, Christina Applegate offers the most natural performance in the film – which only makes Jenna Fischer’s work as a mother of three (that’s been married for 20 years) glaringly flat. The wives have their own story-arcs, which given the way the film plays out, are too rushed to fully realize the emotional consequences the film drives toward in its conclusion.

This is one of the fundamental problems with the controversial premise of the film – the emotional pay-off hinges on the resolution of both parties (man and wife) but Hall Pass, at its core, is trying to capitalize on the Hangover-esque “straight-laced suburban guys get into trouble when their girls are away” style of comedy. But the Hangover didn’t try to balance a larger message about relationships, by bothering to show us the emotional journey of Justin Bartha’s fiance while the boys were away.

Hall Pass Christina Applegate Jenna Fischer Hall Pass Review

As a result, for a film that’s about marriage, the audience is really only privy to the men’s side of the story. Sure, it’s more outrageous than what happens to the girls but, given the emotional chord the film attempts to strike in the closing act, this imbalance results in a convoluted message about love and marriage – one that the filmmakers couldn’t possibly have been intentionally driving toward.

Hall Pass is stuck in a gray area where it wastes too much time with character development to be a rapid-fire laugh machine like Dumb and Dumber while also falling short of an outrageous but engaging love story like There’s Something About Mary (or even Fever Pitch for that matter).

In addition, the film (like many other Farrelly Brother projects) relies entirely too much on unoriginal gag set-ups – just to name a few of the earlier (and less outrageous) ones: characters overhearing the guys talking inappropriately via a baby monitor (and later a security camera feed), pot brownie antics, and a male cougar at a nightclub. The cliché set-pieces do their job at making the audience laugh, or feel uncomfortable, but they rarely come across as smart or take a higher comedy road – for every surprise in the film, there’s a poop joke that follows.

Hall Pass Nicky Whelan Hall Pass Review

That said, even some of the poop jokes still manage to be funny – and the few jokes that do surprise (without going straight into the gutter) might be enough to carry the film for moviegoers looking for a laugh. Wilson and Sudeikis have a decent chemistry that keeps them endeared to the audience – even when the pair is totally misbehaving. A number of supporting actors including Nicky Whelan (Scrubs), as the object of Wilson’s desire, and Stephen Merchant (The Office UK) as well as J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), two of Wilson’s buddies, each get a few moments to shine in the film – aiding in some of the better Hall Pass scenes.

In the end, no matter what audiences are expecting, Hall Pass is a flawed but competent comedy entry that will have them laughing along the way – as they watch either an over the top comedy saddled with too much convoluted emotion or a melodramatic comedy where cheap jokes get in the way of any meaningful revelations about love and marriage.

If you’re still on the fence about Hall Pass, check out the official trailer below:

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Hall Pass is now playing in wide release.

Follow us on Twitter @benkendrick and @screenrant and let us know what you thought of the film.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. Oh yay another cheat on your wife comedy

  2. Wilson being in this ruins the movie for me, I find him too annoying.

    • Anthony I actually kind of like Wilson. I just really really hate Cheat on your wife comedies. It’s just wrong and not funny.

      • I agree Daniel. Owen is worn on me over the years.

  3. Weak tea. The ‘outrageous’ moments felt forced, but there are a few good laughs here.

    I have to disagree about the supporting players. Your avg. Apatow comedy offers many more talented actors in small roles/cameos. The buddies crew here didn’t make me laugh once.

  4. Nothing can beat Dumb and Dumber.

  5. Another tiresome “guys acting badly” pieced of garbage that continues to display the gratuitous double standard of showing male frontal nudity only. It is long past the time to start seeing as much female frontal nudity as male frontal nudity.

  6. So do these guys fall in love with each other or what?

    I wouldnt pay to see this either way.

  7. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to cheat on Christina Applegate, it makes no sense!


  8. Kingpin was the Farrelly brothers best movie, if only for Big Ern.

    • “Kingpin” and “Stuck On You” I think are two of the Farrely Bros. hidden gems.

  9. Owen really annoyies you ? If and when they make a sequel to Wedding Crashers you know you will see that if Owen is in. Heard script is in works most likely a prequel to it. This is according to Vaughn himself.

  10. I saw part of this movie and it was SUPER lame.

    Dont see it.

  11. The penise in this film is nothing short of offensive. How do such a scene relate to anything funny in any way? I know (most) men dont want to see that, perhaps some ladys out there dig it but overall that stuff just needs to be kept out. People never really liked that much nudity in films anyway~ The MPAA simply needs a revision

  12. After the panic room scene, I couldn’t stop laughing. The ending was even descent, but predictable. The shower scene is completely original. I was so surprised Wilson was able to carry the movie, but Sudeikis steals the show.

  13. I didn’t find it funny, think i laughed once, i can see why some people would like it but not for me, was disappointed for a owen wilson comedy i think he’s done some really good comedy’s in the past, but thought this film let him down. Would give it 1/5 rating.
    Predictable film, with not alot of funny parts, but if you want to watch a cheating (not so funny) comedy with Clips of boobs and genitals knock yourself out.

  14. If you’re married to Jenna Fischer or Christina Applegate why would you want to cheat in the first place?!?!!??!?! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Also I thought Ed Helms was in this…