Best because it launched their careers into the stratosphere; worst because everything they’ve done since has the unfortunate position of being compared to it.
From “Me, Myself & Irene” to “The Heartbreak Kid,” the brother filmmakers’ post-“Mary” work has been regarded as “not as funny,” even when it’s not true. This spring’s underperforming “Hall Pass” suffered the same fate. Too bad, because — pardon my blunt French — I laughed my ass off.
The very-married pals/dorks Rick (Owen Wilson, “Little Fockers”) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis, TV’s “Saturday Night Live”) are obsessed with sex, much to the chagrin of their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer, TV’s “The Office”) and Grace (Christina Applegate, TV’s “Samantha Who?”). Rick’s pent up from a lack of it; Fred copes with late-night spank sessions in the front seat of his car; both lust after other women right in front of their spouses.
Maggie gets so fed up with Rick’s behavior that she issues him a weeklong “hall pass,” a break from marriage during which he’s free to do whatever he wants, with no consequences. Grace soon follows suit, and the guys plot to tap tail AMAP, ASAP.
That much you get from the trailer, which promises wall-to-wall high jinks. What it doesn’t tell you is how the wives spend their week off, and therein lies the interesting dichotomy. Oh, there are plenty of big, bawdy laughs, but like all Farrelly films, they come chased with heart. “Hall Pass” imparts a healthy, pro-marriage message, but only after exploring issues of painful infidelity. I’m guessing that hit too close to home for many moviegoing couples who stayed away, perhaps too leery of rattling long-locked cages.
Fischer and Applegate are essentially the straight men in this situation, but at least their parts are beefed up beyond window dressing. (That role is fulfilled — emphasis on “filled” — by saucy Aussie Nicky Whelan as a coffee-shop barista who seems to give in to Rick’s awkward efforts at flirting.) It’s the boys’ show through and through, and try as Richard Jenkins (“Eat Pray Love”) might to steal it in his extended cameo, Wilson and Sudeikis stand strong. (Sudeikis is a revelation in his first lead role; I suspect he’s on the verge of a breakthrough.)
The only extras on the Blu-ray are a lone deleted scene that’s actually worth watching, being Jenkins-centric, and a gag reel that never wears out its welcome. The combo pack also includes a digital copy so you can watch “Hall Pass” again — you’ll want to — while on the go. Your airplane row mates may not appreciate the penis scene, however. Screw ’em; their loss. —Rod Lott