Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Hall Pass" (2011)

Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Jenna Fischer
Written by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett
Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly
Rated R - Language, nudity, sex, drug use, violence
Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are both married men... and obsessed with sex. Neither of them can get what they want from their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate). They spend their days gazing at attractive younger women, thinking to themselves about the good old days when they were wild and single.

Maggie and Grace hear from their friend (Joy Behar) about the concept of a "hall pass" - give your husband a week off from marriage to do whatever he wants, and he'll return more appreciative than ever before. Rick and Fred accept these offers, and the women head to visit Maggie's parents in Cape Cod for the week.

While Rick and Fred stumble about town trying to figure out how to attract these younger women, Maggie and Grace find things much easier on the Cape. Maggie finds herself attracted to the coach, a friend of her father's, while Grace finds a young pitcher rather alluring. Rick and Fred are continually sidetracked, at first by eating too much food, then by eating pot brownies. Rick begins to make progress wooing a gorgeous Australian barista named Leigh (Nicky Whelan), but runs afoul of a young man who is desperately in love with her.

Will Rick and Fred score? Will Maggie and Grace give in to their temptations?

"Hall Pass" is a movie with a fairly outlandish premise in which not much outlandish really happens until the end. This is not to say that the movie isn't funny, because it is, but just that the film isn't as wild as its central conceit might lead you to believe. In fact, the movie seems to revel in the idea that Rick and Fred will spend much of their time trying to get laid by doing things like going to Applebees or playing golf, but this is a calculated move.

You see, the characters have grown and changed. They're simply no longer capable of running out and finding some girl to bang. They just don't know how to do that anymore, despite their big talk. And, maybe, they subconsciously sabotage their own efforts because they both do truly love their wives. Rick, for instance, attempts to setup an online profile on a casual fling website, but puts up a family picture with the wife and kids because he thinks it's "a good picture" that shows what he's all about.

Rick is also the one who has the most luck, and seems to develop a real crush on Leigh, who returns his affections, despite their age difference and Rick's obvious blundering. The antics Rick and Fred get into  are pretty amusing. Their logic seems flawless, and yet the execution of their ideas lands them in failure.     The first night, Rick and Fred decide the need to eat up before hitting on women... but go into a food coma and decide to give up for the night. When trying the pot brownies to loosen up before hitting the pool bar, they eat too much and end up stealing a golf cart. And so on.

If there's one problem with the movie, it's that, as funny as it is, the central conceit is just kind of... weird. Maggie and Grace seem to come to the conclusion that they should let their husbands have a week off a little too easily. The movie has to try very hard to make all of these characters likable, even as they're doing things that seem out of character or even wrong. Ultimately, it seems like the whole movie could have been skipped if these two couples would just... have sex. Indeed, Maggie and Grace both essentially decide to let their husbands go off and have sex with someone else simply because... they don't want to.

Despite this, and despite the film's unspoken comments about its female characters, "Hall Pass" is fairly funny. As with most mid-range comedies, there are jokes that don't quite work. There are some scenes here that are funny because they're gross or shocking rather than being truly clever. The whole film goes pretty much exactly how you'd expect it, with some ridiculous dialogue and wild situations to elicit laughs.

Comedies are often in the eye of the beholder. I found this one amusing enough as a rental on a Saturday evening. It's no classic, but I liked it well enough, even if parts of its concept are awkward or forced.