In Hall Pass gonzo directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly channel current comedy king Judd Apatow’s brand of post-modern humor and infuse it with their own crude style to tell the debaucherous tale of suburban husbands seeking wild sex adventures after their wives give them a week off of marriage. Obnoxious characters in absurd situations are abundant in this standard “man-child must mature” movie but the brothers failed to find the key ingredient at the center of all of Apatow’s cinematic concoctions: the heart and soul that carries the story and balances its tone.
The 40-Year Old Virgin had Andy Stitzer’s innocence and sincerity. Knocked Up had the unlikely but adorable romance between Ben and Alison. Even Funny People had the burgeoning friendship between fan and idol as an emotional anchor. There’s nothing of the sort in Hall Pass because its protagonists don’t show much affection or empathy toward anyone until the hasty conclusion suggests the would-be bachelors have learned their lesson. This fabricated moral climax is merely an afterthought to the jokes and gags that drive the movie but at least there are enough laughs to help you forget about its lack of structure or substance.
And that’s a sad thing because the film inherently questions some of the unspoken laws of marriage a significant narrative path worthy of further exploration. Why can’t Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) look at an attractive woman without offending their wives? Because as it turns out the ladies are incredibly insecure and actually initiate their husband’s extra-marital fantasies by ignoring their sexual needs. When the tables are turned and both Grace (Christina Applegate) and Maggie (Jenna Fischer) find themselves in risqué situations that test their own loyalty we witness an interesting gender-reversal that underscores some fundamental truths about the differences between men and women. If Mike Nichols or Woody Allen would’ve made this movie these plot points would have been in sharp focus but Hall Pass isn’t cultural commentary; it’s a Farrelley Bros. film.
That means you’re in store for all kinds of gross-out gags from a pair of poop-puns to a close-up on a pair of penises (I kid you not). The writers-directors are relentless in making their audiences squirm in their seats whether it’s because of an awkward circumstance or a depraved act. It’s not the raunchiest romp I’ve ever seen on film but it certainly aspires to be.