The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Hall Pass

You've doubtlessly heard the old joke about how pointless it is for dogs to chase cars, since they wouldn't know what to do if they caught one. That's largely the joke around which Hall Pass is centered. Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play Rick and Fred, best buddies who are both obsessed with the sex their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), aren't always inclined to give them. They also share a tendency to ogle any good-looking woman who happens to walk by. Frustrated with their immaturity, the wives decide to give them "hall passes" - one week off from marriage during which they can do whatever it takes to get that incessant horniness out of their systems.

The guys initially think it's a great idea, until they realize that they've forgotten how to swing. (They go to Applebee's expecting to pick up women.) Eventually, they turn to an aging lothario named Coakley (Richard Jenkins) for help. He tutors them in the art of seduction, and before long, Rick is pathetically trying to follow through on his attraction to a shapely coffeehouse barrista (Nicky Whelan), while Fred attempts to pick up several women of varying ages. Maggie and Grace, meanwhile, spend a week out of town and find more opportunity for action than their husbands do. Bet you didn't see that one coming, huh?

Hall Pass, like the recent No Strings Attached, tantalizes you with a very transgressive premise, only to quickly backpedal into a more morally conservative place. This isn't a comedy about two married guys who go sow their wild oats; it's about two guys who don't remember how to sow their wild oats when given the freedom to do so. That allows the screenplay - by directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly and former "Project Greenlight" winner Pete Jones - to avoid ever going anywhere that's uncomfortable for the audience. In other words, instead of taking risks, they play it safe. A very poignant, funny picture could potentially be made about a guy getting permission to take a break from the burden of responsibility and a marriage that's lost its sexual heat. Hall Pass, despite its come-ons, is more interested in making men-are-horny-and-incompetent jokes than it is in exploring the myriad complications of its plot device.

The Farrelly brothers have a long tradition of mixing incredibly raunchy humor with unexpected heart. That formula served them well in the past, but doesn't serve them so well here. By now, it feels as though they're going through the motions - tossing in gross-out humor simply because it's expected. For instance, there are two scenes in Hall Pass clearly designed to be outrageous attention-getters: one involves Rick coming into close proximity with two penises, the other has to do with the intestinal distress of a young woman Fred has picked up in a nightclub. Compare these moments to the famous hair gel scene in There's Something About Mary. That scene had a carefully constructed set-up that built steadily to the punchline, resulting in devastating laughter. In contrast, the "money shots" of Hall Pass arrive abruptly and have no bearing on the plot whatsoever. Therefore, they aren't funny. Just because you stick a penis in the middle of the screen doesn't mean you've hit comic gold.

Few things bum me out like seeing a great cast wasted in a half-assed movie. Whatever mild entertainment value Hall Pass has comes from the actors, who doubtlessly trusted that the Farrellys would turn all this nonsense into magic. Wilson, Sudeikis, Fischer, and Applegate are likeable performers who do what they can with inherently flawed material. Funny side players, like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" co-star J.B. Smoove and frequent Ricky Gervais collaborator Stephen Merchant, provide a few stray chuckles as well. By far, the best thing in the movie is Richard Jenkins, playing hilariously against type as a swinger extraordinaire.

I've liked all the Farrelly brothers' previous films, to varying degrees, but Hall Pass is definitely my least favorite. I only laughed a few times; their pacing feels off this go-round. The key to making the idea succeed would have been to scrap the unnecessary vulgar humor and silly hijinks, and to explore its more realistic, human-based possibilities. That movie would be worth running out to see. I can't say the same for this one.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

Hall Pass will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray Combo Pack on June 14. The Blu-Ray has two different cuts: the original theatrical cut and an "Enlarged Edition" that adds about six more minutes of footage. Additionally, the film will be available for rent on demand through digital cable, satellite TV, and IPTV. It can be purchased for permanent download or rented on iTunes, Amazon Video on Demand, and XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles.

The primary feature on the Blu-Ray is the Enlarged Edition. It contains multiple scenes deleted from the theatrical cut, including a cameo from The Social Network star Armie Hammer, who plays a bouncer at a nightclub.

There is one deleted scene, running about four minutes, involving Coakley talking his way out of a traffic violation. Richard Jenkins is the best thing in the movie, and this scene is funnier than most of the stuff that made it in.

Finally, there's a short gag reel, largely consisting of Sudeikis ad-libbing when someone forgets a line.

A digital copy of the movie is included in the combo pack.

Hall Pass is rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.