Andy Bockelman: ‘Hall Pass’ is typical Farrelly brothers shenanigans

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

'Hall Pass'

2.5 out of 4 stars

105 minutes

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate

You know you’ve been married for too long when Applebee’s, Chili’s and Olive Garden are your first choices to pick up girls. But, as the men of “Hall Pass” learn, hitting the singles scene can be just as terrifying as storming the beaches at Normandy.

Best buddies Rick and Fred (Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis) aren’t unhappy in their marriages, but that doesn’t mean they can’t daydream about the prospect of other women.

This sentiment isn’t shared by their wives (Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate), who are really starting to get fed up with their spouses’ disrespect.

When the husbands finally go too far, their ladies hand down an ultimatum suggested by their relationship therapist friend (Joy Behar): a “hall pass,” a week-long hiatus from the constraints of marriage in which Rick and Fred can get their need to score out of their systems.

With their gals temporarily out of the picture, the guys are certain they’ll be fighting off amorous women with a stick, but they soon find that things have changed since they were single and hooking up is much more difficult when you’re out of practice.

Wilson has never exactly been the go-to guy for an everyman role, but he does well enough as the husband and father of three who finally has a chance to relive his alleged glory days, mainly focusing on chasing after a coffee house cutie (Nicky Whelan) during his week of freedom.

However, Rick’s occasional slip in staring at random women’s derrieres is nothing compared to his pal’s almost dangerous libido, with Fred trying in vain to charm the pants off every girl in sight before he’s even given the OK.

Sudeikis, who’s always proven adept at playing horn dogs, is hilarious as a guy who talks about his marriage as if he were stuck in a POW camp.

Fischer and Applegate are fine as their weary wives, Maggie and Grace, though for two actresses who are capable of comic greatness, their characters are disappointingly underwritten.

Stephen Merchant, JB Smoove and Larry Joe Campbell are in Rick and Fred’s corner as their married friends wanting to observe what happens during the week of debauchery, but Richard Jenkins outdoes them as their unattached, globetrotting friend, who can analyze the potential talent at a nightclub like a forensic investigator, whether it’s pinpointing the girl who’s looking to replace her smoking with another bad habit or weeding out the women who surround themselves with less attractive companions — Hot. Not.

With their last couple of movies centering on serious relationships, it would seem filmmaker brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly are moving into more mature territory.

While “Fever Pitch” dealt with dating and “The Heartbreak Kid” showcased the honeymoon period, their latest in this trilogy shows the midlife crisis point in marriage as only they can do.

The creators of “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary” are able to make a believable story while still retaining their trademark gross-out gags, most notably the most unsettling use of Styx’s “The Best of Times” ever captured on film.

Rick’s attempt to take a soak in a health club hot tub and Fred’s disastrous courtship of a girl with an upset stomach lead to the expected vulgar outcomes, but while the two find themselves in disgusting circumstances in their futile mission to bed new women, their wives are being hit on by every young buck in their radius.

The problem here is that the Farrellys don’t fully utilize the juxtaposition in stories, with all the humor embedded in the perspective of seeing married men try and fail spectacularly to pick up other women and none in the idea that Maggie and Grace could easily find new, better lovers in contrast to their husbands.

Even if it doesn’t have the full effect it should, “Hall Pass” has enough laughs to make up for a story that goes for the obvious jokes.

In a way, it’s a good movie for couples, with the ultimate message being that wedded bliss is the only way to go.

Just don’t see it together.

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