Review of Hall Pass

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A woman grants her husband the opportunity to engage in an affair, and his best friend soon follows suit. However, things get complicated when both of their wives start engaging in extramarital activities as well. Starring Owen Wilson, Alyssa Milano, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, & Jason Sudeikis.
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Movie Review: "Hall Pass"

-- Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: February 25, 2011
Directed by: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly
Genre: Comedy/Romance

"Hall Pass" is an amusing romp through the lives of two married couples during a whirlwind week of supposedly un-wedded bliss. Unhappy with their vows of commitment and bored with their private lives, two wives give their husbands a hall pass that represents a week free of the standard vows of devotion and monogamy common in most marriages. The husbands attempt to use the passes, but are ultimately waylaid by themselves. The wives set off on a raucous week of their own without telling their partners, and they quickly find men who seem far more interesting than their husbands.

Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) gladly accept their hall pass week and set out on a series of hilarious adventures to try and score with as many women as possible. Unfortunately, they constantly derail themselves with high school antics that prevent them from making any headway with the ladies until the end of the film. Their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), have far more luck seducing men at the house of Maggies' parents in Cape Cod.

Wilson and Sudeikis do an excellent job of playing high school teens trapped in adult bodies. Obviously out of practice with enjoying the bachelor life, they sabotage their every attempt through hilarious antics that hearken back to films like "Animal House." The pair is believable as a set of sexually repressed married men finally given freedom.

Fischer and Applegate are less convincing in their on-screen roles. Maggie trips over her attempts at seduction and comes very close to success, despite what should have otherwise been hilarious results. It is unclear if this is a fault of the character or Fischer's portrayal. Applegate is far more convincing as a seductress but stumbles to convey any real sense of character. Both wives get involved with other men over the course of the movie, and the climax brings out personal conflicts in each. Sadly, the chemistry isn't there between either of the couples or their intended paramours at any point in the film.

The pace of the movie is often unwieldy. Slow, intimate moments and fast-paced humor seem interwoven throughout the film in a manner designed to enhance the overall comedy. These marriages of interaction tend to slow the humor down to the point where an uncomfortable chuckle arises where an all-out guffaw would have been. Humor is obviously the main point of the film, but in the battle of funny and romantic moments, both end up casualties more often than not.

The film's direction seems to be very heavy on sight gags and light humor. This is common in many films featuring Wilson, but the heavy matters of marriage and commitment weigh down many of the film's best jokes. The inability of the main female stars to simultaneously portray humorous events and deeper conflicts further detracts from the movie's overall humor. Some of this may be attributed to spotty parts of the script, with many of the film's days dedicated to little more than bed rest for both sets of spouses, but solid direction may have helped overcome this issue.

Comedy drives most every aspect of the film. When romance gets involved, the pace of the movie slows and viewers are left to watch empty soliloquies in which characters attempt to figure out their place in their relationships. A deeper portrayal of these inner conflicts may have lead to something excellent emerging on the romance front, but this does not happen over the course of the film. Viewers learn of Grace and Fred's inner feelings only through the occasional glimpse into their minds and ways of thinking. Ultimately, these two characters fall into stereotype from the outset and don't redeem themselves in any meaningful way before the film concludes.

As the plot progresses, we begin to see different sides of Rick and Maggie. Their characters struggle inwardly with the aspects of the free weekend that weigh heavily on the film, and Wilson does an excellent job of playing this side of the movie with a straight face. The humor builds to an excellent climax at the film's ending, when the mish-mash of love triangles and family relationships comes to a head. If the movie had kept this pace throughout, it would be worthy of a much higher rating.

"Hall Pass" is a decent date-night film worth checking out for a laugh with friends or a humorous private night out.

Rating 3 out of 5