Title: Hall Pass
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Screenwriters: Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate
The Farrelly Brothers were once known as the grinning envelope-pushers of gross-out comedy. But now that There’s Something About Mary’s hair gel scene has come to seem quaint, that reputation would seem to be a dead end. Fortunately, the Farrelys have simultaneously developed a softer side that’s more fun than the raunchy stuff, not to mention harder to come by. Their later films, especially Fever Pitch and Stuck on You, injected a heartfelt sincerity into their typically absurd high concepts without becoming the least bit syrupy or maudlin. It’s heretical but true: I prefer my Farrelys sentimental.
Hall Pass makes a few largely out-of-place forays into hair gel territory, but otherwise falls neatly into that latter category. Christina Applegate and Jenna Fischer play a pair of wives who, concerned that their marriage is being crushed under the weight of their husbands’ relentless stairs at other women’s hindquarters, issue them a “hall pass” – a week off from marriage. Delighted, the two middle-aged Casanovas (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) set off to take advantage of this rare opportunity, only to find that recreating their college heyday is harder than it seems.
The jokes are hit and miss, the throwaway stuff generally working better than the uproarious set pieces. But Hall Pass ultimately turns out to be bittersweet and even a little sad. Less about marriage than about the frustrations of growing older, the film captures the melancholy feeling of disconnect that comes when your old activities and hangouts start making you feel out of place. Hall Pass is at best mid-range Farrelys, but it’s quick, snappy, and largely effective, with invaluable assists from Christina Applegate and especially Jenna Fischer as beautiful and (as these things go) believable movie wives that aren’t going to take any shit from their goofball husbands.