The Farrelly brothers do something slightly different in their latest comedy, 'Hall Pass,' by injecting the plot with a more mature outlook on marriage and love. Mind you, it's still the same trashy raunch-fest typical of their slapstick flicks, but the story also seems to come from the perspective of people who have been in a long-term, committed relationships. There's something weirdly grown up in the way the brothers essentially explore the politics of matrimony and monogamy, even when there's not a single moment where anyone discusses the matter in a truly profound fashion.
A pair of bumbling simpletons (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) can't keep from ogling women, and have it in their brain that they were once "chick-magnet" studs — back when they were in JV basketball during their senior year. After an amusingly embarrassing housewarming, their respective and incredibly understanding wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) offer them a week off from their respective marriages, thanks to Joy Behar (who acts as if she's reading from a teleprompter). As would be expected, outrageous hilarity ensues once the women leave town. We're mostly talking situational gags about middle-aged suburban life, a night on the town at Applebee's, and consuming a batch of pot brownies during a game of golf.
Some of the jokes feel a bit forced — they're simply meant to gross out viewers rather than garner a laugh. Or they're just plain stupid and overblown, like the barista taking out his anger issues on a minivan. Although, the scene with Sudeikis successfully picking up a woman at a nightclub and developing a sneezing fit in the bathroom is a good combo of eye-popping shock value and complete gut-busting laughter. Then there are characters like Stephan Merchant's stereotypical British nerd, which feel like a setup to a bigger punch line that never happens. Another is Richard Jenkins as some kind of aged-rocker pick-up artist. But he does such a fantastic job in the role, completely orange-tanned except around his bald spot, that he actually becomes the highlight of the entire picture.
What ultimately saves 'Hall Pass' from turning into a catastrophic failure — the vulgar comedy is only partly responsible for maintaining interest — is the story actually allowing two reactionary sides in this pure fantasy arrangement. The script from Pete Jones (Project Greenlight winner and director of 'Stolen Summer'), which he co-wrote with the Farrelly brothers, gives the wives equal opportunity to enjoy their spring break from marriage. Not too surprisingly, the ladies are more adept at finding new romances than the boys, and they do so by merely having fun rather than intentionally looking for it. In the end, everyone walks away from the experience with a well-deserved happy conclusion, even if the side-splitting ride there was fairly bumpy and somewhat awkward.
While Fischer and Applegate play it safe in their positions as dutiful wives, Wilson also shows a great deal of restraint as the devoted husband and loving father. Sudeikis, on the other hand, clearly enjoys overacting his role, but he mixes it with a goofy cocksureness that's funny. When we get right down to it, however, 'Hall Pass' is standard lowbrow raunchiness from the Farrelly brothers, and while it delivers tons of shock laughter, the comedy also comes with plenty of heart, and it's decently well made. It turns out the string of lewd potty-humor is only sugarcoating a hard lesson on marriage and monogamy. Just not sure we needed to go through all that trouble in discovering something so self-evident.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings the Farrelly brothers' 'Hall Pass' to Blu-ray in a two-disc eco-case and dubbed the Enlarged Edition with a cardboard slipcover. Aside from a DVD-9 / Digital Copy of the movie, the Region Free, BD25 comes with an extended, unrated cut that's exclusive to the high-def format. The seven-minute difference is nothing dramatic, except for a couple of gross visual gags and more lewd dialogue. At startup, viewers are greeted with a series of skippable trailers, followed by the standard menu option with full-motion clips and music.
Warner Brothers sets the boys loose into the world of high-def with a solid enough 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1).
It's a squeaky-clean transfer, with plenty of bold, bright colors throughout, which would be expected of any decent comedy. Contrast is right on the money with crisp, brilliant whites, providing the picture with excellent clarity and resolution so that viewers don't miss a single raunchy visual gag. Blacks are, for the most part, accurate with deep, strong shadows. Levels only dip somewhat in a few scenes, but overall, they're top-notch and delineation doesn't falter in low-lit interiors. Fine object and textural details are as good as one would expect from a new release, yet there's nothing really striking or standout.
In the end, the latest comedy from the Farrelly brothers receives a pass on Blu-ray though it doesn't offer much to truly impress.
The audio is pretty much in the same boat as the video, delivering precisely what's expected of it and not much else.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack comes with an attractive and expansive soundstage, keeping everything airy and jovial. The ridiculous conversations between the male leads and the more intelligent discussions from the women are crystal-clear and intelligible. The other two front speakers display great clarity detail, giving scenes with the boys' night out a bit more life to them. The mid-range is well-balanced though never pushed very hard, and low-frequency effects play a mild but amusing role. Rear activity doesn't offer much, but a few atmospherics creep their way into the back even though it does little to really engage viewers.
All things considered, there's nothing significantly troubling about this lossless mix, but there's also nothing making it special or exciting either.
Only one trifling little bonus segment is offered in the special features.
'Hall Pass' may be standard Farrelly brothers raunchiness, but it's still quite funny, and it also comes with a good deal of heart and a surprisingly mature perspective on the politics of marriage. Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, and Christina Applegate, the gross-out comedy is an amusing watch, but it doesn't offer anything really memorable. The Blu-ray arrives with a satisfying audio/video presentation and a dull collection of supplements. High-def owners are rewarded, however, with an exclusive extended, unrated cut of the movie. But in the end, only fans will see the purchase value in this forgettable comedy.