With such priceless classics as “Dumb & Dumber,” “Kingpin” and “There's Something About Mary,” Bobby and Peter Farrelly were once on top of the comedy world.
But then “Me, Myself & Irene” happened. Then that film snowballed into “Osmosis Jones,” “Shallow Hal,” “Stuck on You,” “Fever Pitch” and “The Heartbreak Kid.”
That's not to say these are lousy movies (“Stuck on You” will always hold a special place in my heart because my wife and I watched it in the theater on our first date). I don't want to give that impression at all. Most of them actually have the ability to be quite entertaining.
It's just that none of those aforementioned films can come even close to holding a candle to the Farrelly brothers' early trifecta of hilarity. That's the problem when you set the bar so high - everything that follows seems to always pale in comparison, even if that thing can still be considered above average.
So, I really can't argue with anyone who thinks the Farrelly siblings are losing their touch. And once you lose something it's usually gone for good, so I also can't fault moviegoers for believing the veteran filmmakers will never again be able to catch lightning in a bottle.
Well, those of you with that mindset are dead wrong.
The Farrellys' latest effort, “Hall Pass,” proves without a shadow of a doubt the two talented brothers can still bring the funny. And here they bring it with the power of a bodybuilder hopped up on steroids.
But I must send out a warning to all of you women who are reading this review: you are definitely not the target audience for “Hall Pass,” which constantly and humorously pushes the envelope of bad taste. The Farrellys, who wrote the screenplay with Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett, have taken what goes on in most men's brains and put it on the screen for the world to see. And the results are not going to be pretty for our female counterparts.
Here's the thing though, the Farrellys may take some liberties with how the male population really behaves (Trust me ladies, not all Y-chromosome holders think about cheating on their wives), but most of the material does have some truth behind it. If you're a middle-aged man whose been married for a while and has a few kids, you'll surely be able to relate to the film's comedic elements, and that makes everything all the more amusing. Plus, the humor is filthier than the cloud of dirt that follows Pig-Pen around at every turn. But more importantly, it's also funny. I mean really, really funny.
The script certainly has a huge part in that, but you could also say the same thing about the uproarious performances from Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, who play Rick and Fred, two married men who can't get sex off their minds - and often those fantasy-filled urges involve other women.
That, of course, infuriates their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), who are sick and tired of their spouses' “rubber-necking” ways. So, in an attempt to rejuvenate their once-strong relationships, Maggie and Grace take a risky approach and give their husbands hall passes: one week off of marriage where they can do anything and everything they want, no questions asked. And once those seven days are over, it's back to being connected to the old ball and chain.
Rick and Fred couldn't be happier with the proposition, but after only a couple of hours reality starts to set in - The tight-knit pals aren't exactly spring chickens anymore and picking up hoards of random women isn't nearly as easy as it once was.
And this is where Wilson and Sudeikis absolutely excel. The situations the characters are put in are tremendously hysterical on their own, but Wilson and Sudeikis take the comedy to even higher levels. That we have come to expect from Wilson (“Zoolander” and “Wedding Crashers”), but nothing could have prepared me for the breakthrough performance from Sudeikis, who is mostly known for his current stint on “Saturday Night Live.” The guy just understands how to deliver lines and get the most laughs out of them. There's really no better way to put it than that.
Where the film falters, though, is with some of its secondary characters, which include a rich yuppie (Rob Moran), a scorned coffee house employee (Derek Waters) and Rick and Fred's group of friends (Stephen Merchant and Larry Joe Campbell, among others). Either the characters are just not funny or the actors who play them try way too hard to make their moments count, which causes those scenes to feel too forced. Luckily these personalities are only a tiny fraction of the film.
And, in the grand scheme of things, it's rather easy to disregard those minor blemishes when the rest of the movie is so consistently hilarious. And it's not as if all of the gags are ones that will leave you quietly chuckling to yourself. Nope, there are a good number in there that should compel you to laugh so hard you'll feel the burn in your stomach muscles for hours.
Come to think of it, “Hall Pass” gave me the best workout I've had in months.
4 stars (out of 5)
Comments can be directed to Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org