The Farrelly Brothers peaked very early in their movie-making career(s). I still consider Dumb and Dumber a proper comedy classic. It has the perfect mix of great, goofy, likable characters, played brilliantly by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, mixed with a story that kept these two great characters getting involved in chaos, danger and general, hilarious situations. It has scenes I can still remember, word for word, even now, as well as loads I have forgotten about until I catch this repeated on TV sometimes.
There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene were the only ones to come close to repeating this magic formula, taking great, likable but outrageous characters and intertwining them with a story that was just as crazy. They were also brilliant, especially in the films mentioned, of taking it to extremes, be it the opening, fly mishap in “Mary” to the overdose of laxatives in Dumb and Dumber. Each film had great, gross-out or immature elements too.
I’ve seen a few of their other films and never really been impressed. They try to follow the same formula, with crazy characters or ridiculous, at times immature elements to a story being apparent in films like Shallow Hal and Stuck On You but they never really managed to get the mix right or make another classic. This is why I didn’t exactly go into Hall Pass with an open mind or expect something anywhere near as good as Dumb and Dumber.
It had the potential to be brilliant though. The idea of two men, who have both reached mundane, bored points in their respective marriages, getting a “Hall Pass” from their wives and being able to sleep with any woman they want for a week could have easily opened the door to a film where these two men try all their old, outdated pick-up techniques, attempt some brand new ones and maybe even get exposed to experiences that they aren’t used to, in true, gross, extreme Farrelly fashion! Except this film doesn’t go down that route.
Rather than use the bulk of the film to watch the two men trying and hilariously failing, the key theme seems to be their age and how “tired” they are. Rather than getting rejected by lots of different woman, this is reduced to one, quite tame night of trying/failing and then the film focuses on their respective attempts to pick up specific woman instead, completely missing the opportunity this story offers.
It doesn’t help that the main character seems miscast. The two men have different personalities. One being a more leery, immature and enthusiastic Hall Pass participant, played ably but hardly amazingly by Jason Sudeikis. The miscasting comes with Owen Wilson who never really convinces as the “out of his depth” but slightly more mature character. It’s not like Owen Wilson can’t play this type of character, repeating what he did so well in Wedding Crashers, but he just doesn’t turn on the same charm or believability for this role. They would have been better trying to get his co-star, Vince Vaughan.
It doesn’t help that the Farrellys don’t try to add what made their best films so successful. I understand anyone trying to move away from a genre or style, showing they have more to them, but this film would have fit the extreme character/crazy situation combination perfectly. Instead we get neither crazy characters or a gross, immature, ridiculous story. Both seem lame compared to what we know the Farrelly brothers can deliver.
The saving grace for these filmmakers is that The Three Stooges looks like it will have more in common with Dumb and Dumber than Hall Pass. The added bonus being that I’ve never seen a Three Stooges film so don’t have any idea of how well the characters are being imitated. Soon after this will be a Dumb and Dumber sequel, a proper one, with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels and I can’t wait for that!
Overall, considering the potential this story had and what we’ve seen from the Farrelly Brothers before, this film became a standard, watchable but uninspiring film rather than the extreme, gross but hilarious comedy we could have expected. Hopefully the Farrelly Brothers can repeat some of their earlier success with both The Three Stooges and particularly Dumb and Dumber 2 (Dumb and Dumberer?)
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)