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Case Number 01967

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Shallow Hal

Fox // 2001 // 113 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // June 17th, 2002

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All Rise...

The Charge

True Love is Worth the Weight

Opening Statement

From the men who brought you such classics as Dumb And Dumber, There's Something About Mary, and Me, Myself & Irene comes a warm and fuzzy love story where you won't believe your eyes. Peter and Bobby Farrelly have developed a reputation for giving viewers the penultimate gross-out experience at the movies. I need not list them for you, faithful connoisseur, as you probably know them far better than I. However, be prepared for something completely different and mostly gag-free as the boys have written a humorous and touching—yes, touching!—story about a shallow man with a thing for hot, young tail.

Facts of the Case

Hal Larson (Jack Black, High Fidelity, Ice Age, Mars Attacks!) at the tender, young, impressionable age of nine watches his father (Bruce McGill, The Sum of All Fears, Exit Wounds, MacGyver) die in the hospital. But before his father passes on, dad is able to pass on three pearls of wisdom to his son in hopes that his son's life will be better than what he had. First, dad tells Hal to never, ever settle for average; second, never be satisfied with routine poontang; and, third, look for a classic beauty: a woman with a perfect can and great toddies. Thusly, he summates that hot, young tail is what it's all about.

Skip ahead thirty or so odd years to where we find Hal dancing, quite badly, in a bar filled with enough eye candy to form a dozen cavities. And right in the middle of that bevy of beauties is Hal, trying to get a chance to dance with any one of the lovelies. Being the shallow creep that he is, he instantly repulses every woman that he tries to get jiggy wit. He simply aims too high, for the women he wants are too hot for the man he is. But, what else can Hal do? His father's dying words have unknowingly directed his life.

One very bad day at work, Hal gets the shaft when he is passed over for a promotion. Hal thought the new job was his, but he realized too late that he didn't make himself indispensable to the firm. In his haze, he ambles over to the elevator to go back to his office when he bumps into TV self-help guru Tony Robbins (in a truly marvelous cameo!). The two of them are sharing the elevator down when it suddenly stops! Being more than a simple glitch, the two of them are trapped together for half the day. Two shafts in one day, ouch! The two talk about a great many things, and Tony soon realizes that Hal has severe issues with women. As Tony is a giver, he imparts some great advice to Hal in hopes that he can mature and go beyond his physical lust for women and find the inner beauty of a woman. Actually, it's more than simply advice as Tony pretty much hypnotizes Hal into only seeing a person's inner beauty. ("What the hell you doin', banana hands?!?")

As soon as they are freed from the elevator, things begin to get better for Hal. He is a changed man, but doesn't actually realize it quite yet. From the get-go, he's a nicer, gentler man—well, somewhat nicer and gentler—who begins to have luck with absolutely stunning babes. He's able to talk to them and get phone numbers and more! Life is good. No, life is great for Hal.

Except there's a catch: Tony Robbins' trick (or is it treat?) is to allow Hal to see the inner beauty of a person, thus overwriting what they truly, physically look like. Thus, and this works only for new people that he meets, if a person is a kind person, they look pretty or handsome; if they are mean, then he or she looks ugly.

One day Hal is driving along and he sees the most beautiful woman walking down the sidewalk, Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Shakespeare in Love). Seeing as he's had incredible luck with the ladies as of late, he pulls over and begins a conversation. Things start off quite badly, but soon turn toward the better and quickly enough the two of them are happily dating.

In his Robbins-induced fog, Hal doesn't realize that Rosemary actually weighs over 300 pounds and not the slight 115 he thinks he sees. Hal's best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander, Seinfeld, Pretty Woman) is frightened and confused by his friend's new approach to dating. As Mauricio is as shallow as Hal (was), he simply cannot understand why Hal has abandoned the chase for the ultimate hottie and is now going after the "dogs." Mauricio makes it his mission to help Hal get back on "the right track."

And so the story continues with Hal and Rosemary happily dating. Will Hal ever see Rosemary as she truly is? Will Mauricio clear the fog from his friend's eyes? Will Tony Robbins come back for another scene? Can Hal and Rosemary live happily ever after?

The Evidence

As alluded to earlier, this is not your typical Farrelly Brothers' movie. If you are expecting another Dumb and Dumber or There's Something About Mary, then you won't find it here. With each successive movie, the boys have changed their style and mostly reduced their gross-out quotient. Some even like to say that each new movie is worse than the last, and they peaked too soon. I wouldn't go that far, as I actually found a great many things to enjoy in this film.

Bobby and Peter did an excellent job in their direction of this film. They brought the best out of everyone on their staff, from the actors to the cinematographers to even the best boy (who makes a small cameo in one of the bar scenes). They've honed their craft and can easily create any atmosphere they like. What's even more impressive is how they've made a funny, crude, and gentle film all at the same time. There are laugh-out-loud moments—though, honestly, not a lot of them; there are times when you see things that obviously let you know you're watching a Farrelly brothers movie; and then there's the surprising fact that the boys are not making fun of fat or ugly people in this film. Yes, they do poke fun at them, but it is not done in any malicious fashion. The ultimate goal of this movie is for people to realize that, as the old cliché goes, beauty is only skin deep. They took a comedic approach and literally show you that what you see is not always what you get.

To do that, the boys have a superb ensemble cast in this film. Huge kudos go to Gwyneth for her excellent portrayal of Rosemary. As beautiful as she is, you could tell how seriously she took the part and how she was able to find some way to relate to and relay that she is supposed to be a 300-pound woman. Her gestures, her walk, her slight moves, and her expressions all added to the believability of the character. She does an excellent job and is completely believable in this role. Anyone could fall in love with Rosemary and her cankles.

Jack Black is almost a cult figure in his popularity. He's not the type of guy who gets the big role in a movie, but he certainly does have the chops for them. I enjoyed his work in this film too, but he doesn't seem as polished because of Gwyneth's superb work. He was upstaged, just a tad, but he certainly holds his own. My main problem with him is that he's a bit too expressive with his facial gestures. When a subtle expression here or there would have sufficed, he went full out and plastered that look on. I would have enjoyed his performance more if he could have toned it down just a little bit.

Beyond the ever-dependable Gwenyth and Jack, the supporting cast of characters also deserves high marks for what they did in the film; most notable of all is Rene Kirby, who plays Walt. Rene suffers from spina bifida but has adapted to it in many amazing ways. Beyond the way in which he's overcome this debilitating disease, he simply brings an incredible presence to the film. I believe this is his first role, for obvious reasons—as there aren't many roles for a man like him—but he brings a surprising reality and charm to every scene he's in. I hope that he gets more roles in the future. And, just a quick mention to Jason Alexander. He too did a fantastic job as Hal's friend. Too bad he couldn't convey that energy in Bob Patterson.

We are treated to a pleasant anamorphic transfer that is very clean and free of defects. I only have a few small nitpicks with the transfer: there is some light edge enhancement, but it's not distracting; the framing used in some scenes is odd—at times you'd think you were watching a full frame transfer, as everything in the scene isn't properly framed to the dimensions (e.g. Hal's dad holds up a bible in the hospital but the bible isn't completely in frame); and the transfer does feel a bit soft, but that may be what the brothers wanted.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix for the film is par for the course for a comedy: the center channel cleanly presents the dialogue, while the sub and surrounds are mostly ignored. Unfortunately, I did feel that the center channel was occasionally inconsistent, as background sounds sometimes overwhelmed the dialogue and those same background sounds were a bit hollow. This occurred just once or twice, was noticeable in those scenes, but only slightly detracts from the film.

The list of bonus features on this disc is quite impressive, but the end result isn't as satisfying as I was expecting. There is an audio commentary track with the brothers. As this is my first Farrelly Brothers' DVD, I wasn't prepared for their approach to commentary and am very disappointed. For men who can make such funny movies, they certainly have no idea of how to present an entertaining audio track. They are boring, repetitious, and self-serving. While you may garner a few interesting nuggets by the end of the track, the destination isn't worth the journey. The brothers seem to think it's interesting to listen to them ramble on about all their friends and family in the movie. Get a clue: WE DON'T CARE! I don't want to know which tenth uncle thrice removed is eating a bagel in the background. I am far more interested in what went into making the scene or funny anecdotes about what went into making that scene. So please stop doing that! One of the questions I had hoped they would answer during the commentary revolved around the name Mauricio. What kind of name is that, I wondered? Much to my surprise, they actually began to answer the question, then they saw an ex-girlfriend's uncle's friend's lover's doctor in the scene and decided to stop the Mauricio story to tell me about the friend in the shot. Unfortunately, the bums forgot to finish the Mauricio story. Terribly frustrating!

We also get eleven deleted scenes with optional Farrelly commentary. The scenes are presented in widescreen and are clean and easy to watch. I enjoyed them and appreciate their inclusion on the disc—but what's up with the dog scene? Yet once again, the brothers' commentary, quite frankly, sucks. It absolutely isn't worth the time to listen to. Twice they said, "Oh, let's watch the scene and then we'll talk about it." Only on the second scene did they realize that at the end of the scene, they were cut off!

Two featurettes that don't have any commentary are your best bet on the disc. First is the stunts featurette that goes into some detail about the diving board scene and how they created the huge splash for Gwyneth. It's interesting, but it clocks in at just about three minutes and is a bit limited in its coverage. Next, and probably the best supplement, is the makeup featurette. This feature nicely covers how they changed the dainty Gwyneth into the huge Rosemary. There's a good deal of information presented during this 13-minute presentation.

Other features include the fluff "HBO Making Of" special (does anyone ever watch these when they're on HBO?), the slightly more interesting Comedy Central "Reel Comedy" piece, the "Wall in Your Heart" music video (not presented in 5.1, so what's the point?), and several trailers: Shallow Hal, Minority Report, Unfaithful, Banger Sisters, and a generic Farrelly Brothers' promo that talks about Dumb, Mary, and Irene.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

When I see the name Farrelly, I don't want to watch some touchy feely nice movie! I want butt jokes, snide remarks, and lots of crude gross-out humor! Gimme more of that special hair gel humor and leave the romance for Freddie Prinze Jr.

Closing Statement

In some regards, the Farrelly Brothers' movies aren't as laugh-out-loud funny as they used to be. Whether they've lost their edge or they've decided to try new things, this movie isn't as memorable as the rest of their fare. For the most part, I appreciate what they are doing in this film; and I believe they've succeeded in making a funny and memorable film that has a nice moral center. There are plenty of gags and jokes to make this a solid comedy and a worthwhile addition to your collection. I also enjoyed the light romantic touch that adds a different flavor to their repertoire. As long as you're not hoping for any great commentary from Bobby and Peter, then you should be all right with this disc. Watch the film, enjoy the humor, and listen to its not-so-subtle message.

The Verdict

The Farrelly Brothers are sentenced to a jail sentence to be calculated as follows: one month for every moronic reference to a friend or family member during a commentary track. By my rough estimation, that's a life sentence. Jail time will be nullified if in their next commentary, for next year's The Ringer, they refrain from even one reviled cameo reference. Case adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 92
Audio: 88
Extras: 82
Acting: 93
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary with Bobby and Peter Farrelly
• 11 Deleted Scenes with Optional Farrelly Brothers Commentary
• HBO "Making Of" Special
• Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Shallow Hal
• Music Video: "Wall In Your Heart"
• "Seeing Through the Layers" Makeup Featurette
• "In At The Deep End With Shallow Hal" Stunts Featurette
• Theatrical Trailers: Shallow Hal, Minority Report, Unfaithful, Banger Sisters


• IMDb

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