Monday, December 5, 2011

Hall Pass

Directed by The Farrelly Bros.
2011. Rated R, 105 minutes.
Owen Wilson
Jenna Fischer
Jason Sudeikis
Christina Applegate
Nicky Whelan
Stephen Merchant
Larry Joe Campbell
J.B. Smoove
Richard Jenkins
Rob Moran

Things have been rather lackluster in Rick (Wilson) and Maggie’s (Fischer) marriage lately. In an effort to make her man better appreciate what he has, Maggie decides to give her husband a “hall pass.” This means she is giving him a week off from marriage, seven whole days where he can do whatever he wants with no consequences. As I’ve already implied, her plan is for him to go out and discover how hard it is to be suddenly single, realize he has a great woman at home and come crawling back to her no harm done. Of course, his thoughts immediately turn to trying to get laid as often as possible. Both Rick and Maggie have partners in crime. Their best buds Fred (Sudeikis) and Grace (Applegate) have a similarly sputtering marriage. Naturally, Grace also gives Fred a hall pass. Hijinks and shenanigans surrounding everyone but Maggie trying to get some ensues.

Over the last decade or so the Apatow group, as I like to call them, has helped raunchy guy comedies rise to prominence. Though that particular crew has put out tamer efforts over the last couple of years, others have happily filled the void. Hall Pass is one of those, sort of. It’s helmed by the Farrelly brothers who have been highly successful within the genre. Their no-holds barred approach works well. HP is crass, even vulgar but manages to humor more than offend. To what degree you believe this to be true, if at all, depends on your point of view. If anatomy jokes and four-letter words do it for you, this is right up your alley. To be fair, that’s way oversimplifying things but you get the point.

Like a lot of comedies, the main character isn’t necessarily the one that gets the laughs. Here, both Wilson and Fischer play it fairly straight. It’s almost as if they’re in a drama. This works because it balances out all the zaniness around them. They keep the movie from spiraling out of control. To their credit, Sudeikis and Applegate along with help from the gallery of minor characters, threaten to make it do just that. While Sudeikis gives the movie’s flashiest performance, Applegate again proves to be one of the best comedic actresses in the business.

Knowing what you’re in for is key. A syrupy sweet rom-com, this is not. Though the arc of the story suggest otherwise, its approach has much more in common with The Hangover than (500) Days of Summer. If you can wrap your head around this fact, you’ll be in a place prime for enjoying the ride. If you can’t you might not be ready for the road ahead.

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