Judge Patrick Naugle wishes he ditched this class.
Recess is in session.
Could it be that we've reached the saturation point for gross out male comedies? Have we, as a collective society, seen so many fat/penis/vagina/poop/vomit/testicle/anus/semen/nipple/urine/diarrhea/booger/pubic hair jokes that they have finally lost their power to shock or amuse us? Quite possibly, though Hall Pass is going to make every effort to squeeze one last bodily fluid gag into the fold, care of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Another in a long line of male-oriented comedies, Hall Pass features Saturday Night Live breakout star Jason Sudeikis as mild-mannered Fred and comedy staple Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers) as his buddy Nick, best married friends who are given a "Hall Pass"—the equivalent of a "get out of jail freel" card—by their wives (The Office's Jenna Fischer and Samantha Who? star Christina Applegate). This essentially gives the two men special permission to have a week off of marriage—seven days to do whatever their little hearts desire with whomever they want. Both Nick and Fred have issues and problems in their respective marriages and the wives hope that this special permission can help bring about a much needed change. Or will it be the other way around?
Ah, married life. It's an institution that caters to the illusion that if you just weren't shackled to a significant other your life would be nothing but beer soaked frat parties, bikini models and endless nights of exquisite debauchery. Hollywood just loves this idea because it allows them to churn out movies that feature men in their 30s and 40s acting like adolescent imbeciles (usually with beautiful, movie star wives waiting in the wings at home). And who better to do the churning that Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the men behind such immature hits as There's Something About Mary and Kingpin?
Hall Pass takes this idea and tries to make it something special but fails on almost every level because the movie doesn't have the conviction to follow through on it's promise of Hangover-like craziness. Truth be told, the Farrelly brothers feel almost antiquated in 2011. Much like Kevin Smith—whose movies were once shocking and full of "I've never seen THAT!" moments—the Farrellys time has come and gone to the point where there is little in their films that surprise, shock or disgust. Furthermore, the filmmakers haven't had a solid hit in years upon years. Just take a look at their last three films: The Heartbreak Kid, Fever Pitch, and Stuck on You. Anyone out there consider any of those even close to being classic comedies? The torch has not only been passed but was forcefully taken from the brothers years ago.
There are some amusing moments in Hall Pass, but they are bogged down by too many mundane gags and lackluster dialogue that seems to go nowhere fast. The story, such as it is, doesn't offer much investment in the characters; it's hard to really care about people willing to have sex with strangers because they just have carnal needs, dammit! I realize films are about suspending belief and letting a character just be who they are but it's hard to imagine anyone empathizing with either man when they have women like Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate waiting at home for them. Frankly, their exploits at the bars and singles clubs are never over-the-top funny (unless you consider lines like "Are you Irish, 'cause my penis is Dublin" hearty gut-busters).
Hall Pass feels like a movie constructed to make Jason Sudeikis a star. The SNL vet has popped up in a few movies over the last few years in bit parts (most notably Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro and the terrible What Happens in Vegas) and has a likable air to him—his personality is a game show host mixed with your everyday suburban dad. It's clear that Sudeikis is trying to find a role that fits his talents, and the character of Fred isn't it—nerdy and out of touch, Fred is just too pathetic to be very amusing. Let's hope that Sudeikis's next role in this summer's comedy Horrible Bosses proves a better fit for the actor.
The rest of the cast here all seem to be going through the motions. Owen Wilson plays a variation on the classic Owen Wilson character (talking in laid back circles until he gets to the point) and the women's roles are woefully underwritten. Jenna Fischer is a smart comedienne who is given little to work with except to look disappointed in her husband. Christina Applegate is given even less to do—her role feels as if it could have been played by a no name actress with the same results. The only real gem of the movie is Richard Jenkins (an Oscar nominee for The Visitor) in what is essentially the role Will Ferrell played in Wedding Crashers—the over-the-hill all-nighter who wanders the singles landscape in hip clothing that looks shockingly ridiculous on someone in his early 50s. Jenkins attempting to imitate a hip, 20-something is almost worth the price of this disc.
As I watched Hall Pass, my girlfriend was working in another room. After about an hour, I took a break and she asked me if it was funny. "Meh," was my response. She noted that she heard me laughing, but only about four times. I told her that if, after an hour, a movie has only made me laugh once every 15 minutes, I don't think the film's batting average is very high. Hall Pass has it's moments—my favorite being an unexpected twist on a vomit gag—but it just doesn't have enough going for it to warrant a strong recommendation.
Hall Pass is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen in a 1080p resolution. Warner has produced an excellent looking transfer with bright colors, vibrant skin tones (maybe a a tad too vibrant at times) and solid black levels. The transfer has a nice 'filmic' look to it that doesn't appear scrubbed of noise or washed out. I don't have many complaints at all about this transfer—it's uniformly excellent and should please fans of the film in a high def format.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and does the job that's needed. Once again, we're working with a comedy that features a front heavy sound mix that really only utilizes the rear speakers for ambient noises and background effects. Dialogue and effects are easily heard without any defects. The soundscape to this mix may not be earth shattering, but it is serviceable. Also included on this Blu-ray are English, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby 5.1 mixes; as well as English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Supplemental features are slim on this edition of Hall Pass; all fans get is the 'extended cut' of the film (an extra seven or so minutes of extended scenes), around four minutes of deleted scenes, a short gag reel and some BD-Live features. Also included in this package is a standard DVD copy of the film as well as a bonus digital copy.
There is one sequence in Hall Pass that made me laugh very, very hard. As funny as that moment was, that's the only time (aside of a few random chuckles) where I really, fully enjoyed myself while watching it. For a Friday night rental you could do much worse, though scanning the rental shelves you can probably do a lot better, too. Warner Bros.' work on this disc is good, if standard—the image and soundtrack are excellent with minimal extra features.
Hall Pass is sentenced to detention until it figures out how to be funny.
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