Jason Sudeikis and Owen Wilson in Hall Pass. Photo courtesy Warner Bros.
First The Dilemma, and now Hall Pass. Are the major movie studios correct that the preferred date-night entertainment of 40-something married couples is slapstick comedies about contrived moral dilemmas among 40-something married couples? What do the couples talk about on the ride home? "So, if I gave you a 'week off marriage,' and our sexy 20-year-old nanny came on to you, would you be DTF—or even DTH?"
Hall Pass comes to us from the Farrelly Brothers, creators of outrageous love-em-or-hate-em hits such as There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber, and Kingpin. My personal experience with the Farrellys' filmography ends with 2000's Me, Myself & Irene, but Hall Pass is consistent enough with their early efforts that I gather I haven't missed too many big surprises. The fact that the Hall Pass posters advertise the film as being "from the creators of There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber"—both of which came out over a decade ago—is telling.
The film stars Jason Sudeikis and a lamestreaming Owen Wilson as a pair of married men whose ogling of other women prompts their wives (Christina Applegate and Jenna Fischer, weirdly overtanned as if to emphasize that she's out of The Office) to give them "hall passes": permission to do whatever they want for a week, up to and including sleeping with other women. Will the men go through with it? Can they go through with it? Meanwhile, the ladies find themselves hanging out on Cape Cod with a minor-league baseball team that has a bunch of hot young guys and a silver-fox coach (Bruce Thomas). Does the hall pass work both ways?
Not to compare Hall Pass unfavorably to the Farrellys' earlier efforts...but let's compare Hall Pass unfavorably to the Farrellys' earlier efforts. In Mary and Kingpin, you ended up caring for the characters almost despite yourself. These were ridiculous people in ludicrous circumstances, yet they were written and embodied with such sweet charm that emotion started creeping up into your consciousness like acid reflux making its way up your esophagus. Here, we're expected to emote on cue: the poignant guitar strumming begins, and it's not Jonathan Richman sitting in a tree. I didn't take the cue.
Will this film please its intended audience? Passably. There are consistent chuckles, and one big laugh in classic Farrelly style. These guys are pros, and they're not going to produce a completely shoddy product. But the movie never really gains momentum. The comic sequences that need to build, don't. The film just drifts along dispensing minor amusements until it's over, and you can go home and go to bed. Maybe that is what some 40-something married couples are looking for on date night...and you guys can go enjoy it. As a critic, I give you a hall pass.