To say Hall Pass is one of the crudest, most poorly thought-out and generally demeaning films of recent years is giving the Farrelly Brothers’ latest effort more credit than it’s due. Arguably the pioneers of the resiliently popular gross-out style of comedy, the Farrelly Brothers’ earlier films featured protagonists that were, despite the often almost appalling nature of their acts, consistently watchable and entertaining. Importantly, these characters were often endearingly ignorant and naive, lending a child-like propensity that when directly juxtaposed with their tasteless nature not only made allowances for the most disgusting of gross-out acts, but actually made them humorous. In Hall Pass it would appear that the Farrelly Brothers have forgotten the important key factor that their previous films so relied upon: their protagonists are neither sweetly innocent, or in fact, remotely likable.
Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis), despite their status as married men, are not only obsessed with sex, but obsessed with the idea of sex with women other than their wives. Immediately the viewer questions, if these men find the idea of other women so attractive, along with finding that their own wives are not enough to sate their desires, then why are they married? This question is swiftly resolved when Rick states that men can’t help it, this obsession with sex and the continual desire for other women is simply part of a man’s hard-wiring. Not only is this suggestion fairly offensive, it demeans the every-man that this film supposedly represents. Seemingly the film is leading us to believe that men are not only sub-intelligent, but entirely one-track minded.
Rick and Fred, along with their similarly-minded cohort of equally repellent friends are, unlike Lloyd and Harry of Dumb and Dumber, all too aware of the offense they are causing, revelling in their repugnant attitudes towards women. The men here certainly have no respect for women: women here are merely figures of objectification or ridicule. In much the same way, the women of the film, particularly Rick’s wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Fred’s wife Grace (Christina Applegate) hold no respect for their husbands, frequently mocking their perceived ineptitude.
Maggie and Grace, in realising their husbands’ penchant for observing attractive women, decide to revitalise their marriage by offering their husbands a week off from marriage, a hall pass, which will allow them to do exactly as they wish. Rather than reject this offer, neither reflecting on the upset this could cause nor the damage it could do to their marriage long-term, both men accept with relative gusto, believing that without their wives they will be able to sleep with any woman they desire.
Presumably it is at this point that hilarity should ensure, but with such genuinely repulsive characters any attempts at humour are not only entirely cringe-worthy, but resolutely unfunny. More importantly, the overly-sentimental ending is thoroughly unrealistic, seemingly tacked on to make up for the men’s previous moments of extremely heinous, shallow, and callous behaviour.
Whilst no prude, a film which features men discussing the delights of overstretched vaginas, sagging breasts and two scenes featuring human faecal matter is surely not above accusations of extreme poor taste. Women here are simply reduced to body parts: these features are then discussed at extended detail with Rick and Fred deriding women for ageing and for being unattractive.
One must wonder what compelled stars such as Owen Wilson to agree to partake in such a blatantly offensive film. Wilson is clearly out of his comfort zone here, so wonderful in his work with Wes Anderson, Wilson’s performance here is decidedly poor, perhaps he himself is aware of the poor quality of the material that he has signed up for.
Hall Pass is, rather simply, a bad film, so bad that any attempts to deride it gives it far too much undeserved attention. Instead, watch Dumb and Dumber or There’s Something About Mary, for Farrelly fans it’s best to pretend that Hall Pass doesn’t exist.