Hall Pass

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Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Merchant, Nicky Whelan, Larry Joe Campbell
Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

It’s really easy to dismiss the Farrelly brothers as purveyors of smut and writers that rely on cheap laughs, but films like THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and even THE HEARTBREAK KID have far more heart than people give them credit for. While it may be the sperm in the hair and the untrimmed body hair that people remember, it’s the bittersweet love stories that make them a bit more memorable than just comedy shock fests.

HALL PASS tells the story of Rick and his best friend Fred. Both happily married for years but unable to leave their lusty single ways completely in the past. Their wives decide to test them by giving them a week off their marriage, a ‘hall pass’. But they and their wives learn that getting what you want isn’t always the best thing.

Owen Wilson is less “laddy” than normal and the southern charm is very much on the back burner. Awkward and almost shy, his Rick, while not exactly a loser is a very different character for him and he manages to keep him likeable throughout without veering into the cockiness that he often has.

Jason Sudeikis as Fred gets many of the big laughs and there are many big laughs here. As usual a few of these are shocking laughs, where you stare at the screen in shock before the laughs come. The film doesn’t pull its punches and there is nudity and bodily fluids a plenty here. But none of this would be memorable if not for the genuinely touching story that unfolds.

It is always strange to see Steven Marchant in a film such as this and he plays a memorable supporting role (stay for the credits at the end for an unforgettable added scene) but it is the four leads that make it worth seeing.

In many ways, this is the kind of film that Adam Sandler has been trying to make for years. One of this film’s strengths, and something which is not well reflected in the marketing of the film, is the rounded characters of the wives played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate. Their stories, told in parallel to the men, may not have the belly laughs but it is where the heart of the film is based. Because you care about these characters, you care about the relationships succeeding by the end. Sandler’s films often lack these strongly defined female characters but with Cameron Diaz’s Mary as well as THE HEARTBREAK KID’S Miranda, the Farrelly brother show they have more than just toilet humour at their disposal.

You’ll remember the car arrest, the spa rescue and the girl with appendicitis. You’ll tell your friends about them. But you’ll enjoy HALL PASS and watch it again because of the story.

5 out of 6 stars