The Farrelly Brothers return to R-rated adult comedy in a sometimes naughty but mainly soft-hearted touch about marriage, suburban hell, and fidelity in Hall Pass.
Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis exemplify their body of comedic work here as the slacker Rich and hyperactive Fred, two good-natured 40-plus year-old men living the middle class life in New England. They have the cars, the houses, the children, and wives of the American dream but feel the need to break out of this mundane existence. Luckily for them, their wives (played by Jenna Fischer and Christiana Applegate) allow them a week off of marriage in order to see what they do with a week of freedom.
With this week-long event, we are treated to the typical platter of the Farrelly Brothers humor that ranges from the occasional drug joke, masturbation in public, a penis to the face, and the eventual scene of somebody taking a shit on the lawn. These jokes are what the Farrelly Brothers live and die by, but they also like to create characters that we identify with and like. This has been key for Ben Stiller and his balls in the zipper, Lloyd and Harry’s worm farm dream, and the ballad of Iowa state bowler Roy Munson.
The back story on these individual characters and why they’re unhappy is explained in Hall Pass – perhaps too much. The Farrelly Brothers seem to have forgotten to put in even the slightest dose of humor in the dialogue for long periods of time. When they do, they either hit too hard with a sight gag – a scene involving a comparison of dick sizes – that comes off as more racial than funny with Wilson’s typical laid-back swagger.
To play fair, Sudeikis gets all of the down right hilarious scenes. So many, in fact, that you wish they would just follow him and forget about the rest of the movie. The two best running gags about jerking off in his new Honda mini-van and an oral sex position called “fake chow” are continuously laugh out loud funny. These are only signs of the signature Three Punchline Combo, Down on the Floor Laughing jokes that the Farrelly Brothers could muster up.
The Farrelly Brothers also give the ladies a decent amount to work with, writing subplots involving Fischer and Applegate at a week long vacation in Cape Cod. By selecting Fischer and Applegate, we would except some really solid comedic work here. Fisher has shown in her work on The Office and the vastly underrated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story that she is a talent to be reckoned with in modern comedy. The same goes for Applegate from her time getting catcalls on Married with Children to her graduation to raunch movies like The Sweetest Thing and Anchorman. Yet here they are given lightweight material that just allows them to nod, speak softly to the men, and then show their blindly white smiles to the screen.
Always surprising character actor Richard Jenkins comes in as a Hail Mary Pass near the end, making you wish that he was there from the start of the movie and not a third act afterthought. Jenkins brings the funny with him, and ends up with Sudeikis having a firecracker of a time comparing women and body language that at one point will make you never want a Subway sandwich again.
Sadly though, this isn’t the Farrelly Brothers that we remember as the kings of comedy back in the 90s. Instead, its kind of a meta movie about two older brothers slugging along to keep up in a vastly changing comedic genre and falling hard on their faces.
At some point somebody has got to tell them to stop, even Mel Brooks – the twisted comedic godfather to the Farrelly Brothers – knew it was time to fade out and pass along his certified prop gag card to other filmmakers.
The Upside: Jason Sudeikis and Richard Jenkins save this movie from being one long, unfunny comedy. All of the great comedic money shots go to them, and they relish in them mostly by making faces.
The Downside: Even if this is the Farrelly Brothers shortest movie, it feels like one of the longest since Stuck on You.
On the Side: The original script was written by Pete Jones, who you may remember got his big break on being the first winner of HBO’s Project Greenlight created by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.