The Farrelly brothers continue to strain desperately for their gross-out glory days with "Hall Pass," their latest "comedy" — and, yes, that word is in quotes for a reason.
Think about it. What was the last truly, deeply, funny movie they made ... "There's Something About Mary"? And that was back in 1998. With "Stuck on You" (2003), they came close to achieving that desired mix of humor and heart, and they had a great cast in Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. But their version of "Fever Pitch" (2005) never worked up any real heat — and that criticism comes from a Boston Red Sox fan.
So here are brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly once again, collaborating as writers and directors, trying to mine suburbia for its latent horniness and untapped bodily fluids with singularly uninspired results. (Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett share screenwriting credit.)
Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis co-star as longtime friends Rick and Fred, who are trapped in stereotypically stagnant marriages. Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate play their wives, Maggie and Grace, who are such cliched, spiteful nags, they pretend to be asleep in order to withhold sex from their husbands as a means of gaining control.
Are you laughing yet? It's a frustrating waste of Fischer and Applegate, two hugely likable actresses who happen to have a knack for raunchy comedy — when it's well-written, that is. Then again, "Hall Pass" doesn't make particularly good use of its male stars' talents, either; the off-kilter charisma that marks Wilson's best work has been obliterated. So at least it's equal opportunity.
Anyway, Maggie and Grace get some advice one day from their psychologist friend (a weirdly miscast Joy Behar) to give their husbands a "hall pass": a week off from marriage to allow them to pursue all the hotties they've been surreptitiously ogling (or so they think — they're not too stealthy). Rick, in particular, has had his eye on the gorgeous Australian barista at his local coffeehouse (Nicky Whelan), who seems to be sending him signals.
But of course, these guys have no idea what to do — because the Farrellys have no idea what to do with them. Being garden-variety, middle-aged geeks, they head to Applebee's with their makeshift posse of garden-variety, middle-aged geek friends — including one who's obsessed with poop AND is the obligatory wacky fat guy. So he's a twofer.
The way this dude relieves himself on a golf course, using the sand trap as a kitty-litter box, isn't even the most obnoxious scatological gag in "Hall Pass." No, that would belong to a young lady Fred picks up at a club and brings back to his hotel room. Let's just say the hardworking women of the housekeeping crew have their work cut out for them — and the moment doesn't even earn the laugh it seeks.
The wives, meanwhile, are enjoying their week off by flirting with minor-league baseball players on Cape Cod. A series of missed phone calls and misunderstandings later, and both marriages are in contrived dire straits.
Here's how bad "Hall Pass" gets: Even Richard Jenkins, with all his formidable skills and versatility, cannot save this thing. He shows up in an unexpected bit of casting as Rick and Fred's wealthy, superstud friend. But then he's stuck with the same lame dialogue as everyone else.