Husbands get time off for bad behavior

Jenna Fischer (left), Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate in "Hall Pass," the Farrelly Brothers' raunchy new comedy about would-be adultery and the joy of marriage.
Jenna Fischer (left), Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate in "Hall Pass," the Farrelly Brothers' raunchy new comedy about would-be adultery and the joy of marriage.
Posted: February 25, 2011

In Hall Pass, the Farrelly Brothers offer a movie more shocking than There's Something About Mary. Most gaspworthy is that this raunchy, transgressive comedy about would-be adulterers turns out to be a hot, wet reaffirmation of marriage.

Set in Farrellyville, by which I mean Providence, R.I. (but shot in Atlanta), the sporadically funny film stars Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as Rick and Fred (hat tip to I Love Lucy). With their short-cropped hair and dweeby vibe, the Realtor and the insurance broker are introduced as tame-and-sane husbands longing for wild-and-crazy days that never were.

How do they spell monotony? M-o-n-o-g-a-m-y. They think of themselves as players, even as they resemble Alfred E. Neuman and Howdy Doody in Dockers.

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 crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|