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Published: 2/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Movie review: 'Hall Pass' issued, but is anyone laughing?

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Jason Sudeikis, left, plays Fred and Owen Wilson plays Rick in the comedy 'Hall Pass.' Jason Sudeikis, left, plays Fred and Owen Wilson plays Rick in the comedy 'Hall Pass.'
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
It's difficult to say who is in need of a bigger hit from the new comedy Hall Pass, the film's co-writers and directors, the Farrelly Brothers, or its star, Owen Wilson.

The answer really doesn't matter since this film isn't going to help any of their careers.

Hall Pass is another strikeout from Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who, as the ads like to remind us, are the guys who brought us Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber, and Kingpin.

And like those comedy classics, this one offers a promising premise: Two near-middle-aged men with wandering eyes and raging lust are given week-long reprieves from their marriages. For seven days Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) can do whatever they want with whomever they want with no consequences. Meanwhile their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), leave town for the week, only to realize that the same hall pass they gave their husbands applies to them as well.

Despite their fantasy come true, nothing proves easy for Rick and Fred as they try to restart their single-man mojo at hotspots like Applebee's, and they draw ridicule from their buddies, who are trying to live vicariously through their failed exploits.

Rick isn't so much into the singles scene as he is smitten by an attractive Australian coffee shop clerk, Leigh (Nicky Whelan), and spends most of his hall pass time awkwardly wooing her. Fred maintains lower standards, and is desperate enough to make it with almost any woman with a pulse.

HALL PASS 

Written and directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly. A New Line Cinema release, opening Friday at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons. Rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity, and drug use. Running time: 98 minutes.

Critic's rating: **

Rick .......... Owen Wilson

Fred .......... Jason Sudeikis

Maggie .......... Jenna Fischer

Grace ........... Christina Applegate

***** Outstanding; **** Very Good; *** Good; ** Fair; * Poor.

Maggie and Grace have a much easier time of it, making the acquaintance of two men from a summer league baseball team: Maggie with the manager, Grace with a player nearly half her age. Hall Pass spends a lot of its time on the spousal dilemma of guilt-free sex outside of marriage. And while the comedy wants to be another Hangover, its message of love and commitment is far too earnest for such debauchery and loose morals.

The film offers scattered laughs, but, save one gag with Fred enjoying the pleasure of his own company in his minivan one night, there's not much in the way of defining comedy moments.

Wilson is terribly miscast as a nerdy husband-father. The actor always has been easy-going and slick, and wearing short-sleeve dress shirts and sporting a feathered part in his hair, circa 1983, doesn't change that image. Wilson is battling against his typecast and never seems comfortable with the character.

Sukiyaki is more believable, but Fred is your basic second-banana, used as a device to create laughs and set up gags.

It's Fischer who fares worst of all. A gem on TV's The Office, and genuinely funny in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Fischer has proven comic skills. But as Maggie she's a zombie, delivering little emotion or enthusiasm to the role. Did she not want to be part of this movie? Or was it poor direction on the Farrellys' part? Considering Applegate is the best and most consistent part of the film then Fisher's onscreen unease isn't because the Farrellys, known for their guy-centric movies, can't write for and direct women as well.

The Farrellys pioneered the gross-out comedy and created some of the more uproarious and memorable scenes from the 1990s. Yet it's been so long since the pair put together a truly funny film from start to finish, one has to wonder if their early hits were a fluke or if they peaked too soon and simply have run out of good gags.

Hall Pass points to the latter. There are many potentially funny moments strung together throughout the film, but few of the jokes deliver anything close to their potential. The staging and direction are amateurish, and instead of generating belly aches of laughter, most scenes close to a smattering of laughs and audience indifference.

It's as if the Farrellys have forgotten how to make us laugh. Or even worse, we simply no longer find them to be funny anymore.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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