Hall Pass

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: -1/2

Content: -4

Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Richard Jenkins, Christina Applegate. Comedy. Written by Pete Jones & Peter Farrelly & Kevin Barnett & Bobby Farrelly. Directed by Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are best friends who have a lot in common, including the fact that they have each been married for many years. But when the two men begin to show signs of restlessness at home, their wives (Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate) take a bold approach to revitalizing their marriages: granting them a “hall pass,” one week of freedom to do whatever they want sexually…no questions asked. At first, it sounds like a dream come true for Rick and Fred. But it isn’t long before they discover that their expectations of the single life—and themselves—are out of sync with reality.

PREVIEW REVIEW: The title Hall Pass seems innocuous enough. But then there are the writer/directors – the Farrelly brothers whose track record would indicate we’re in for a further stretching of the borders of bad taste. I went to this screening hoping there’d be a sweet ending, with lessons learned about the sanctity of marriage. That said, I knew I’d have to endure some crudity. Well, I got the sweet ending, with everybody finally coming to appreciate their life’s companions, but I had no idea just how much crudity I’d be subjected to before the happy ending. As I secretly feared, it was just one more nail in our culture’s coffin.

I will do my best to be discrete, limiting the graphic descriptions, but I do need to indicate how willing most filmgoers are when it comes to the amount of bodily function humor they will endure. Last year films like Death At A Funeral and others continued the trend of mining comic gags from anatomical and scatological humor, as well as oozing humor from sexual self-gratification visuals. I keep wondering as I sit through these bawdy bastions of bad taste, why audiences would guffaw at seeing a fat, drunken, classless man defecate on a golf course? Why would many in the screening audience find a drunken woman with a case of explosive diarrhea also worth an explosive laugh? What is it about our bodily mud that filmmakers and filmgoers find so amusing?

Is it the shock value? Or, are we so desensitized that we’ve come to believe that the genesis of humor is found not just in the bathroom, but in the sewer. Evidently, wit and clever farce have no place in films today, just bodily functions.

Most of my readers come to me for the warnings, making sure to read the content of the films before laying down hard-earned bucks. That’s why I can safely say that our fellow film-goers are like sheep willing to watch a man masturbate in the name of humor. Nothing bothers today’s audiences anymore, and they’d rather be amused by coarseness than whimsy or satire or irony or an observation of the human condition such as Bill Cosby’s standup treatment of a visit to the dentist. And the people who make movies today know it. They may not have any class or restraint, but they’re not stupid. They know there’s an audience, a very large audience, who will sit in a cineplex, laughing away at the sight of a naked man in a health club, his penis in full view for an extended time. Oh, the screening audience loved that one.

Well, I’ve gotten somewhat graphic, after all. And I’ve managed to insult most people who prefer outlandish humor to that of guileless buffoonery or shrewd observations. I guess I should apologize. I’m sorry. But who owes me an apology for subjecting me to I-can’t-believe-I-just saw-that burlesque that is substituted for smart observations? Is it just the filmmakers’ fault? Or, are we the people guilty of allowing vulgar moviemakers to dumb-down and coarsen our society?

On my drive home, Gershwin’s sumptuous An American in Paris was playing on the radio. That helped clear my mind. In bed, I put on the gothic/comic romance The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which further aided in wiping out the comic crudity I viewed earlier, and had me swearing I would do my best to avoid raunchy humor in the future.

Want a critique of the next Farrelly Brothers movie? Why? I now declare, having had to endure Farrelly films such as The Heartbreak Kid, There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber and now this second-rate salute to locker room rudeness, that it’s the last time those two will take my time or abuse my mind. Henceforth, I shall only think of Peter and Bobby Farrelly should I develop irritable bowel syndrome.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many crude visual and verbal jokes.

Obscene Language: Twelve or so obscenities, a mix of the s- and f-words.

Profanity: I caught no misuse of God’s name.

Violence: None

Sex: Mostly a lot of sexual conversation, but there are also some sexual situations, including portrayals of self-gratification and oral sex.

Nudity: A couple of scenes feature nudity, including an extended visual of two naked men, the camera focused on their penises.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Lots of drinking; in one scene the men get stoned on pot-laced brownies.

Other: Several portrayals of bodily functions, including a drunk defecating in public and a drunken woman losing control of her bowels, feces splattered on the bathroom wall.

Running Time: 105 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.