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The Independent Critic

Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, Alyssa Milano, Jenna Fischer, Richard Jenkins, Vanessa Angel
Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Pete Jones (Story), Kevin Barnett
Rated R
105 Mins.
New Line

 "Hall Pass" Review 
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There's an audience for Hall Pass, the new film from those purveyors of perverse comedy known as The Farrelly Brothers. Heck, 20 years ago I was the audience for Hall Pass, a movie about two guys, Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis), who find themselves gifted by a one-week "hall pass" to fulfill all their raging hormones by their long-suffering wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate).

Having now entered my 40's, I've become increasingly intrigued by the idea of the mid-life crisis even if, in this case, it may actually be less mid-life crisis and more long-standing immaturity. I've long since left behind the need to ogle every beautiful woman I meet and am way too tired most of the time to even consider sleeping with them. In fact, even talking to a woman under the age of 25 these days seems to involve more time and energy than I care to invest.

So, it was with a sense of bewildered amusement that I even approached this Farrelly Brothers film, your standard-issue Farrelly Brothers flick with the exception that it actually contains a rather surprising amount of sincerity, especially from the wonderful Jason Sudeikis and the scene-stealing Christina Applegate, and this is one film where the Farrelly Brothers seem to have not become so consumed with gross out humor, though it is here in abundance, that they've neglected the remaining aspects of the film.

Rick and Fred are two guys whose fantasy romantic lives have, perhaps, gotten the best of them and they're completely and utterly convinced that marriage holds them back from being the men they were meant to be. This may, in fact, be true for Rick, played by Owen Wilson as a man who is never quite convincing throughout his week long "hall pass" as someone who begins to appreciate the life that he had (Please don't tell me you consider that a "spoiler"). While Wilson has always had a gift for playing likable and genuinely "good" guys, he's never actually had the range to actually pull off anything resembling  sincerity. A Wilson performance, even in its most sincere moments, tends to feel like sincerity with a smirk and this is true much of the time here. When Rick is being funny, Wilson is frequently laugh out loud funny. When Rick is being sincere, Wilson's performance lands with a resounding "Thud."

Jason Sudeikis, on the other hand, is an absolute delight as the romantically clueless Fred.  This is Sudeikis's first leading role, and he beautifully intertwines the goofy gross-out nature of a Farrelly comedy with his character's essential goodness and off-kilter personality.

Both Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate shine as the long-suffering wives, though Applegate seems to give the film an extra emotional layer that really resonates and gives the film its needed grounding. Among the supporting players, the always reliable Richard Jenkins is awesome as Providence, Rhode Island's biggest swinger and Joy Behar does a nice job as a galpal of our ladies who serves up the advice regarding the hall pass.

There are times that it feels like Hall Pass is going to cross the line and simply become far too absurd, yet almost every time it gets close to that line the Farrelly's somehow manage to pull it back and rein things in again.

It goes without saying, I suppose, that Hall Pass will ultimately find itself playing out as a morality tale in which our men will learn to value their lives and, on the flip side, our long-suffering wives will experience a bit of temptation and, perhaps, learn to be a bit more patient with our guys as, of course, marriage ultimately is validated and we all live happily ever after.

Okay, maybe not all.

For those not particularly experienced with Farrelly Brothers films, advice will also be given to stick around through the closing credits. Some of you will likely consider it to be the highlight of the film.

A Farrelly Brothers film is most assuredly not for everyone, and if you never cared for their best (There's Something About Mary) then it's absurd to think that you'll find anything to appreciate here. However, if you've long fancied yourself a fan of the Farrelly Brothers then, in all likelihood, Hall Pass will likely be ranked in at least the top 3-4 of their 10 films. By no means flawless, Hall Pass is entertaining enough for those seeking an escape for a couple hours this weekend. It's difficult to fathom box-office muscle being too strong for this film, but with the film surrounded by Nic Cage's Drive Angry and the Gospel-themed The Grace Card initial box-office prospects are solid and the film will likely enjoy a solid life once it hits home video.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic