The battle of the sexes is over, and the results are in: Men lost.
This is not exactly breaking news, as the oafishness, horniness and general incompetence of adult men has been firmly chiseled into the granite face of the pop culture monument. Sure, male-pattern idiocy has been at the root of most comedy since the first cartoon scribbled on a cave wall, but the modern attack on the male ego seems more sustained and insidious than ever before. If you were to rely only on the information supplied by contemporary American film comedies, you would have to conclude that the average 35-year-old white man is utterly incapable of being faithful, sober or mature, a selfish, imbecilic, overgrown, undersexed blubbering man-child barely able to do much more than hoist a beer or an Xbox controller without causing massive property damage.
In this regard, Hall Pass is nothing special, just the latest moneymaking assault on collective manhood, but it is notable amid all the multiplex charnel, for it at least briefly hints at actual human behavior before degenerating into the usual car chases, full frontal nudity, pratfalls and scatology.
Owen Wilson and SNL deadweight Jason Sudekais star as best buddies, the cheekily named Fred and Rick, and, boy, do these dudes have some 'splainin to do to their long suffering wives. These bros are the prototypical suburban dweebs, Dockers-clad goofs who think it's awesome to rock a Huey Lewis T-shirt under their pressed collars while swilling a Michelob Light at the local casual diner. Gainfully employed and decent, dutiful husbands, these jerks commit the unpardonable sin of sneaking casual glances at passing chicks and engaging in caddish guy talk in the sanctity of a poker game when they think their ball-busting wives aren't listening. Of course, Rick and Fred's wives, played respectively by Jenna Fischer and Christina Appelgate, are appalled that their under-40 husbands (with fully functional sex organs) could even contemplate finding other women attractive.
So the scorned women conspire a punishment; one week "hall passes," so that their henpecked spouses can act like rowdy unmarried dudes and get their ya-yas out with out regrets.
Of course, the big joke is that these clueless boobs don't have the slightest bit of "game," and spend far more of their shore leave pounding down baby-back ribs than getting down and dirty with hot babes. Meanwhile, the gals live it up on Cape Cod, where the local minor league baseball players are more than happy to shower some attention on these tasty visiting cougars. This is all just window dressing for a series of intermittent yuks.
Having set the pace for modern, raunchy, dude-oriented comedy in the 1990s, Bobby and Peter Farrelly have watched the upstart competition blow right by them as if they were standing still. The upstart likes of Old School, The Forty Year Old Virgin and Superbad, not only outdid the famously rank humor of There's Something about Mary, they did it with smarts and real, sustained emotion that the Farrellys could never cram between huge sight gags. So, for at least part of Hall Pass,there is an inkling of reality peeking through, and a just a hint of middle-aged sobriety and restraint. Are these dudes maturing? Not really, because Hall Pass only dabbles in identifiable human behavior before a grown man takes a dump in a golf course sand trap.
At least the buttoned-down Wilson is playing somebody other than himself, and Sudeakis makes a pretty able comedic foil, drolly dealing out the one-liners. Sitcom pro Applegate is winning, and maybe someday someone will write a worthwhile part for the appealing Office star Fischer, though that will have to wait for a better movie, one that treats its characters as more than a standup comedy punch line.