Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes
It is painfully redundant to hope that The Farrelly Brothers will ever reach the comedic heights of their first three films. Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary have forever set an unassailable level of expectation for Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Their latest film Hall Pass marks something of a sea change for the gross-out, gutter-minded brothers. A grown up movie, jokingly examining the changing dynamic of marriage and monogamy. Hall Pass manages to be surprisingly mature and genuinely incisive in its portrayal of middle aged malcontent. Well, for about ten minutes at least.
Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis) are offered a week-long ‘hall pass’ by their spouses; who are tired of their sex-obsessed locker-room talk and instinctive male-habit of checking out every hot girl who passes by. Rick’s wife Maggie (Fischer) and Grace (Applegate) leave town with the kids, whilst Rick and Fred check into the Comfy Nite Motel for a week of no strings attached, guilt-free hedonism. Maggie and Grace are confident that the freedom granted to their husbands will serve only to make them realise just how lucky they actually are. Rick and Fred hit the town with their posse of middle aged misfits, in search of mayhem. The first few days don’t exactly bring much mayhem, maybe some mild discord. Rick and Fred get high on pot-brownies and play golf, get drunk and pass out without so much as a sniff of action.
The film is punctuated by extreme scenes of typical Farrelly Brothers toilet humour. After a jacuzzi mishap, Rick is dragged to safety by a couple of nude gym patrons and intimately positioned to affirm the racial penis stereotyping in an uncomfortably graphic full frontal close-up. Fred is caught rubbing one out in his car by some local cops and on another occasion; just as he is about to make full use of his hall pass – his classy lady friend falls foul of a loose-bowelled sneeze which wrecks the mood (and bathroom wall).
Maggie and Grace meanwhile are gradually realising that the passes offered to their husbands, were just as much about them as their bumbling other-halves. Their Cape Cod vacation is spiced up by the visit of a college baseball team, young kids eager to make full use of the experienced older women. Maggie is tempted by the ruggedly handsome team coach, while back home Rick looks set to seal the deal with a young Australian barista he has been drooling over for weeks.
Hall Pass had the potential to be a genuinely funny grown up (ish) movie, maybe more Judd Apatow than classic Farrelly. It is stuck between a Parenthood type tale and all out American Pie gross fest. The Farrelly Brothers films usually hinge on an unlikely romantic warmth, which is not really present here. The characters are likable but not imbued with sufficient empathy to really make them relatable or worthy of our sympathy. The overall plot does not really lend itself to a full feature, as the last act seems thrown together and hurried – particularly the inclusion of Richard Jenkins as the old-enough-to-be-your-granddad party guru. The laughs are less frequent and effective as the film trails off and loses its way somewhat. Hall Pass whilst not hitting the side-splitting heights of their early movies, remains an enjoyable addition to the Farrelly Brothers catalogue.