Their exasperated wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), have had it up to here with their adolescent ogling. The wives power-walk with a psychologist (Joy Behar) who prescribes a radical remedy: Give 'em a vacation from marriage and they won't know what to do with their freedom.
The wives decamp to Cape Cod giving Rick and Fred a "hall pass": a week off from marriage, no questions asked. It never occurs to the husbands that it is a vacation for the wives as well.
The film's running joke: Why, if all the world is a sexual buffet, are Rick and Fred grazing at Applebee's?
Yes, Hall Pass has the obligatory bathroom humor we have come to expect from the Farrellys. Two occasions are laugh-out-loud; the others mostly out-loud without laughs.
But it also has an undertow of melancholy that makes it less funny ha-ha than funny-sad. The assumption of the film is that marriage emasculates men and empowers women: "Why do women get a house and babies and we get nothing?" demands a fired-up Fred. What's wrong with this picture? The men are arrested-development cases and the women their wardens.
As for the performances, Wilson does well by his wistful manboy as does reliable Applegate with her turn as the cougar-in-kitten's clothes. There is a third-act appearance by a well-known character actor, almost unrecognizable here, as the Hugh Hefner of Providence. He is stone hilarious. Otherwise, I liked this movie better when it was called The Seven-Year Itch.
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/