Special to The Dagger
In the same year that comedic favorite “The Hangover” gets a sequel, “Hall Pass” just might give a strong opponent for best comedy of 2011. “Hall Pass” is crude and raunchy while maintain a heart of gold, but quite simply, it is hilarious.
Rick and Fred (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) are having trouble settling into their roles as husbands. Continually agitating their wives with their boorish behavior, the women (Jenna Fisher and Christina Applegate) decide to give their husbands one week free of the shackles of marriage. Expecting the worst, the women venture off to the in-laws where they become the toast of a minor league baseball team, while the husbands attempt to relive their glory days at home.
The first thing to know is that the directors push the envelope of what constitutes a R rating, several times dipping a toe across the line into NC-17 territory. One can only imagine what back room deals were cut with the ratings board to avoid the movie-killing latter rating. That said, the experience of the Farrelly brothers shows, as they pull off offensive and graphic material while still maintaining an endearing center to the story line.
That golden center is the carefully manipulated choice between monogamy and the dating game. Reacting exactly as two red-blooded American males would when presented with the freedoms of marriage without consequences, Rick and Fred immediately celebrate their freedom by calling their buddies and proceeding to overeat, get drunk, and fall asleep at 9 p.m. You’ve got to start slow. Things pick up for the boys, but they quickly realize that their memories of their glory days are not as accurate as they would like to think. At the same time, the wives are both experimenting with their freedom from marriage. By the end of the film all avenues of marriage freedom have been explored by the four with various consequences.
As offensive comedies go, this takes “There is Something About Mary” to the next level—high or low depending on your opinion. Almost no subject is taboo for the writers, but the jokes are well written and laugh-out-loud funny. The casting is perfect in every role. Sudeikis and Fisher pull their weight against comedy movie veterans Applegate and Wilson with the combination of solid casting and strong writing giving the film a rhythm and flow that adds to the building comedic maelstrom that is swirling by the end of the film. It is fairly rare to see a comedy movie this well-written and executed, a trait that may set it apart as the best comedy of the year. At least until “The Hangover 2” comes out.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it. For the price of admission you’ll also get bonus safety lessons like don’t fall asleep in the hot tub at the gym and never trust a drunk girl that can’t throw it up.
THREE AND A HALF STARS out of four.
Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly. Written by Pete Jones,
Peter Farrelly, Kevin Barnett, and Bobby Farrelly.
Rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use.
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 min