Wilson stars as Rick, a loving husband and family man who is granted a ‘Hall Pass’ by his wife, allowing him to essentially live life as a single man for the week. Joined by best friend Fred (Ed Helms look-a-like Jason Sudeikis), the two set off on a mission to nail anything in a skirt although, unbeknownst to them, both wives are starting to explore the same possibilities of this new found freedom too.
Cast your mind back to 1994 when brothers Peter and Bobby first arrived on cinema screens with Dumb and Dumber. Dubbed an instant comedy classic by many, the two followed it up with the more modest money-making (but no less funny) Kingpin, before scoring another huge hit with 1998’s crude, yet sweet, crowd-pleaser, There’s Something About Mary. In the years since, it’s been a case of diminishing returns for the brothers, who have never been able to top the jizz folic-enhancing, testicle-mashing antics of that Ben Stiller/Cameron Diaz feature. Hall Pass does nothing to buck the trend either, and is the weakest film so far in the brother’s dick and fart oeuvre (which after the likes of Shallow Hal is really saying something).
After using the flimsiest of premises as a springboard, the film lumbers from one unfunny and contrived comedy set-piece to another. We’ve been witness to films in the past where the main characters’ actions don’t make any sense from an emotional viewpoint (for instance, would Andy really have been intially so blasé about his old toys?) but unlike that film, the ensuing material here isn’t strong enough to forgive and forget any initial niggling plot concerns. It doesn’t even manage to elicit laughs on a basic, puerile level. Some of the situations the duo find themselves in wouldn’t look out of place (minus the crudity) in a bad 70’s UK sitcom. Jokes are recycled from previous Farrelly films and one scene in particular, where Wilson falls asleep in a Jacuzzi, only to be rescued by two naked male sauna guests, is completely misjudged and comes across as just plain weird and even mildly racist.
The subplot involving the two unrealistically easy-going wives, which runs parallel to the guys’ escapades, doesn’t go anywhere funny either, and the Farrelly brothers have a couple of really odd-looking and completely charisma-free unknowns in the roles of potential suitors for the females. Seriously, they’re such a strange choice that it wouldn’t be surprising if the directors insisted on casting members of their own family or circle of friends as some kind of ill-conceived favour to them.
An older and ragged-looking Wilson (whose characteristically wonky conk is really distracting here) is going through the motions and is clearly way better than what he’s asked to do here, as are both Christina Applegate (who play’s Sudeikis’ needy wife) and esteemed character actor Richard Jenkins. He’s introduced half-way through proceedings as some kind of sexual Jedi master to help assist the men in their quest (you may have half-smiled at his nightclub scene in the trailer), but his initially welcomed presence is short-lived when even he can’t do anything with the jaded material.
The film’s one and only saving grace is our very own Stephen Merchant, who is at his bug-eyed best playing an additional member of Rick and Fred’s gang. He fares better than any of the other cast, although he isn’t in it nearly enough, and disappears 20 minutes in and isn’t seen again until during the closing credits where, incidentally, the film’s only real laughs can be found.
Perhaps the biggest crime committed here however, is the running time. The film clocks in at 107 minutes!!! That’s almost two (mostly laugh-free) hours – a self-indulgent display for any comedy, but for one as desperately humourless as Hall Pass, it’s a disgrace. The last 30 minutes or in particular are tough to endure.
In an age where vulgar, laddish humour stills reigns at the box office (you only have to look at the phenomenal success of The Hangover), the Farrelly brothers brand feels even more tired and antiquated when compared against that box office behemoth.
Some may still be able to find a modicum of enjoyment here, regardless of the lazy writing and the overwhelming sense of déjà vu, but for those who like toilet humour which doesn’t necessary have to appeal to the lowest common denominator, you should definitely pass on this.