I went into Hall Pass thinking I’d have to accept the stereotype and appreciate what comedy could be mined from it, if any. Personally, I don’t have a desire to not be in a committed relationship. But, I know there’s this public fantasy about getting a free pass, so that could be funny. The film actually has a clever perspective and good values.
Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are married men in a rut, or two separate ruts to be accurate. Rick’s wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer) hears about hall pass from her friend Dr. Lucy (Joy Behar). It’s actually designed to make the men appreciate their wives when they inevitably try and fail to seduce young hotties.
Already this is a pro-relationship movie. It’s manipulative but the idea is to reinforce the value on monogamy. The misguided intention of that is funnier than any bickering opposites attract rom-com. Rick doesn’t want the pass. I’m with that. Fred’s more eager when his wife Grace (Christina Applegate) follows suit but you know he’s going to learn his lesson. Sudeikis is the ultimate comedy buddy. He’s the perfect instigator but never obnoxious.
The big joke is not to have a raucous wife-free party, but rather that these guys are total posers. Just the introduction of “Day 1” is hilarious. Then the delays and the setbacks take up half the week. The film doesn’t overstay the premise. They do the joke and then cut to the next development. Old guys get tired, boom. They suck at the bar scene, boom. The guys who want that party fantasy may be disappointed, but it speaks to me.
The group of friends is really funny. Flats (J.B. Smove), Gary (Stephen Merchant), and Hog-Head (Larry Joe Campbell) make a classic group of funny companions, even though they unfortunately disappear halfway through. The plot kicks in a little with Rick’s real prospect, Leigh (Nicky Whelan), but it’s always on point. These guys get into hilarious trouble trying to cash in their hall pass.
This is the Farrelly Brothers’ best movie since There’s Something About Mary. I know, I know, even better than Stuck on You. They’re more subdued here. It’s not about crushing pussy or penises stuck in zippers. The penises here are tame compared to Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Walk Hard. Fake chow funny because it makes sense (I’m opposed to it, ladies, but I get why it exists.) Jerking off illustrates the mature feelings of a married man. The joke is the reactions to it, not a cum shot. Okay, there are two poop scenes but the first is somewhere I’ve never seen it before, and the second is earned with character.
It’s not golden era Farrellys like Kingpin but it’s good. Fischer and Applegate have thankless parts. They’re really the cutaways to have the serious relationship talk. They give some counterpoint to what’s going on with the guys, but it’s not funny or perceptive.
There are two scenes where characters’ embarrassing conversations are caught by surveillance. That’s redundant and not that funny either time.
Hall Pass is the first real comedy of the year. It’s worth staying for the credits for another scene with Gary and Hog-Head. There’s a blooper near the end of the credits that’s not great but it pays off the jerking off joke. And there’s a final blooper and dedication which you should also stay for, because come on, you’ve already gotten to music credits. Honestly, after The Dilemma The Eagle Unknown Just Go With It, Never Say Never and all the January movies I didn’t see, it’s relief.