Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hall Pass: automatic detention

While Fred (Jason Sudeikis, left) and Rick (Owen Wilson, right) watch in astonishment, Coakley (Richard Jenkins) demonstrates how an 8 can "pass" as a 10 by surrounding herself with less attractive friends. (Feminists, it should be noted, are not apt to appreciate what constitutes "humor" in this film.) Courtesy photo

February 24, 2011 | Leave Comment

In an amusing scene from 1980′s “Caddyshack,” panic erupts in a crowded country club swimming pool when a suspicious brown UFO (unidentified floating object) is seen on the water; anticipation is built, prior to its discovery, with some riffs from John Williams’ theme from “Jaws.” Following a shriek of “Doodie!” from one kid, everybody hops outta the pool, which then is drained and scrubbed.

Bill Murray, perfectly cast as a deranged groundskeeper, finds the offending object at the bottom of the empty pool. He picks it up (mild consternation from all onlookers), takes a sniff and then chomps into it (fainting from some onlookers).

No big deal, of course, because he’s immediately realized that it’s a Baby Ruth candy bar, which we viewers also know, having earlier seen a couple of children accidentally drop it into the water. But nobody else in the movie knows this crucial piece of information, which is why the scene is so funny.

That’s the difference between Harold Ramis, who made his directorial debut with “Caddyshack,” and the Farrelly brothers, who’ve returned after a four-year hiatus — sadly, not nearly long enough — to annoy, offend and repulse unsuspecting viewers, with “Hall Pass.” When Bobby and Peter Farrelly trade in excrement “humor,” they employ actual excrement. Sometimes explosively.

This, in the interests of full disclosure, is considered the height of humor in a Farrelly brothers movie: watching a grown man squat, grunt, bare his back end and then use a golf course sand trap as a toilet. And, as an added treat, the camera then lingers on the little brown pile left behind.

This “mishap” results from the ingestion of marijuana brownies, a wheezy plot contrivance that stopped being funny decades ago.

Moments like that tend to overshadow the fitful attempts at relationship dynamics in “Hall Pass,” which, in better hands, might have blossomed into a halfway decent sex farce. (I’d love to have seen what a French director, such as Francois Veber, could have made of this film’s premise.) Because that’s the truly frustrating part: The core idea here has potential.

Exasperated wives Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), thoroughly fed up with the roving eyes that routinely pop out from the faces of husbands Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis), take the suggestion of a psychologist friend and give both guys a “hall pass”: a week during which they can pretend, with no strings attached, that they’re no longer married. Seven days in which to cut loose, bag any willing hotties and indulge in their most elaborate carnal fantasies.

As anybody with an ounce of sense will immediately realize, the notion of two middle-age suburban husbands attempting to crash the “meet” market — armed with delusions of their supposedly more attractive selves, 20 years earlier — is ripe for ribald humor. Then, too, it’s easy to anticipate that both Rick and Fred, eventually chagrined by their increasingly inept efforts, will realize that the hottest babes in town can be found in their own homes.

The Farrelly boys — assisted by co-scripters Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett — are even clever enough to throw temptation in the paths of the frustrated wives, giving Maggie and Grace cause to wonder whether they, too, should take advantage of this new-found “freedom.”

One anticipates plenty of embarrassing nightclub antics, near-miss bedroom hijinks and bared bodies. Particularly bared bodies; after all, this IS a sex farce, right?

Well … no.

As orchestrated by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, this is no more than 98 minutes of grade-school potty humor, aimed at patrons who enjoy watching characters humiliated, and who found it hilarious when Malin Akerman dropped her bikini bottom, revealing her Afro-concealed nether regions, and urinated all over Ben Stiller, in the ghastly 2007 remake of “The Heartbreak Kid.”

To borrow the tally system so infamously employed by drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs (the wonderfully exaggerated alter-ego of Texas-based film scholar John Irving Bloom), “Hall Pass” rather meagerly “rewards” us with only two bared breasts and two limp, ah, male members … and they’re not in the same room at the same time.

Instead, we’re treated to an endless stream of vulgarity, debasement and sexist commentary from Rick, Fred and three members of their tag-along guy-posse. I should mention that the latter trio of dorks rather abruptly vanishes from the stage, about midway through this film; that’s typical of the sloppy writing throughout.

Maggie and Grace’s psychologist friend also is never seen again, and several other supporting players pop up briefly in Act 1, only to disappear thereafter. It feels like the four screenwriters penned different chapters of this movie without conferring with each other along the way, and then didn’t bother to stitch the disparate elements into a cohesive screenplay.

While I’m kicking the wounded, mention should be made of the so-called child “actors” hauled in to play Rick and Maggie’s kids: as talentless a collection of screen moppets as I’ve seen in years. Virtually NO effort was made to ensure that these children gave good line-readings during their few (mercifully) brief scenes; the little boy, in particular, isn’t even looking in the right direction. His dialogue emerges in fits and spurts, as if he’s repeating words being fed, one at a time, by somebody just off-camera.

That’s simply insulting. If the Farrelly boys — a term I keep repeating intentionally, in case you’ve wondered — think so little of us, as viewers, that they believe they can get away with that level of inept filmmaking, why should we reward them by purchasing tickets?

And yet, every time you’re ready to toss in the towel and simply write off this misfire as a complete waste of time, the film exhibits another round of multiple-personality disorder and actually becomes mildly entertaining. Maggie and Grace, off on their own vacation and gradually succumbing to their interest in a couple of baseball players, are inhabiting an entirely different movie: Their scenes are played completely straight, with Applegate (in particular) given ample opportunity to display her solid comic timing and earthy sexuality, as Grace tries NOT to fall into bed with a young stud half her age.

(Applegate, I should mention, was drop-dead hilarious in 2002′s “The Sweetest Thing,” a gal-oriented sex farce that was every bit as raunchy as this film, but also much, much funnier. Let’s face it: We expect men to behave badly, so of course it’s more of a novelty when the gender is switched.)

On the guys’ end, things pick up in the third act with the arrival of self-styled stud and all-around dating guru Coakley, played to hilariously over-tanned perfection by the consumately skilled Richard Jenkins. Coakley’s brand of “guy advice” is precisely what this movie needs more of; alas, he’s not present for long, quickly replaced by a deranged coffee shop barista (Derek Waters) who eventually goes postal because the gal of HIS dreams (Aussie-accented Nicky Whelan, capably cast as this story’s superbabe) begins to express interest in Rick.

Wilson once again trots out the amiable, low-key, clueless nice guy that has become his signature; honestly, it would be nice to see him try a LITTLE harder. Sudeikis, a fixture on TV’s “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” who, until now, has dabbled in big-screen supporting roles, is taking a stab at co-starring status here. He rather overplays Fred’s desperately horny act, but it’s hard to know whether that’s Sudeikis’ fault, or merely the result of the way he was directed.

Fans of the Farrelly OEUVRE will eat this film up, and a few of them fell out of their chairs with laughter, during Tuesday evening’s Sacramento preview screening. Different strokes, as they say. I wish such folks well, but the rest of you are advised to proceed with caution. This much doodie humor ain’t for the faint of heart.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at Comment on this review at

‘Hall Pass’

One star

Starring:Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Richard Jenkins, Nicky Whelan

Rating: R, and rather generously, for nudity, profanity, drug use and an endless stream of vulgar potty humor


Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Davis wins USA Today Best Cycling Town honor

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    Benefit set to help local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Jury deliberates murder, elder-abuse charges

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

    State’s health care sign-ups beat projections

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    California residents divided on drought solution

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A2

    For the record

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A2

    Three killed in attack on Ukrainian base

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8



    Fancy meeting you here …

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6



    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery





    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7





    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4



    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6