Several years ago, a friend of mine complained that the British comedy Coupling was just men acting like jerks and the women barely tolerating them. Take that description, toss in some issues of extra-marital fidelity, and you have the comedy Hall Pass. If only it were funny or thoughtful...

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Maggie (Jenna Fischer) are a married couple with three kids and virtually no sex life. Fred (Jason Sudekis) and Grace (Christina Applegate) are another long-married couple, albeit with no kids. Rick and Fred love to ogle women and dream of their "glory days" of being single. When the wives have enough, they give the husbands the titular hall pass: The marriage is effectively on hold for a week, during which the women will take the kids and go up to Cape Cod for a week and the men can do anything (or, for them, anyone) without any consequences.

The guys think the hall pass is a dream come true (as do their friends, who follow them around to live vicariously through their week of guilt-free sex). The women think by removing the taboo of other women, it'll lessen the appeal of other women to men -- plus remind them that the wives aren't the sole thing standing between the guys and hot women.

This being a comedy, Rick and Fred are absolutely horrible at meeting women, let alone seducing them: There are poorly-delivered pick-up lines, unrelated run-ins with the police, some pot brownies, and going to Applebees to meet women. It's only when their buddy and true ladies' man Coakley (Richard Jenkins) shows up do the guys seem to have a chance at getting laid. Well, that and hot Australian coffee server Leigh (Nicky Whelan), who Rick keeps running into.

Meanwhile, the women seem to have more success attracting men without even trying, which makes them realize the hall pass works for them as well...

Hall Pass fails on so, so many levels. For a movie that's supposedly about open marriage and the effect of unfettered sex, its attitudes towards the genders are disappointingly old-fashioned: The men are all juvenile horndogs, while the women are always complaining and uptight. Most of the humor is, well, not funny; and for a movie written and directed by the Farrelly Brothers (who did, among other things, There's Something About Mary), there are far too few over-the-top gags. Remove the cursing and one brief bit of nudity, and Hall Pass could easily be a multi-part television sitcom.
I don't know if polygamy or open marriages can provide the material for humor, but they certainly don't in Hall Pass. This comedy has far too many cliches of the sexes, and far too little originality or laughs.

Overall grade: D-
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: