Farrelly brothers are back

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, February 25, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Times have changed since the Farrelly brothers first ran roughshod over America’s sense of propriety, with such edge-nudging movies as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber.”

They’ve fallen behind after years of aggressive vulgarity from many rivals. At this point, the world of

reality TV alone has far outstripped the hair-gel scene in “Mary.”

Nevertheless, Peter and Bobby Farrelly take a swing at the new boundaries with “Hall Pass,” yet another example of a basically conventional scenario dressed up with a few naughty bits. The Farrellys have always had a nice-guy

vibe that could never be covered by their more outrageous moments.

“Hall Pass” takes off from the idea that two married guys, well into the phase of their lives defined by minivans and relaxed-fit jeans, get a week off from marital obligations courtesy of their somewhat bored wives.

Owen Wilson and “Saturday Night Live” comic Jason Sudeikis are the husbands, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate their wives. The joke of the movie’s first half is that this guy-fantasy plays out in a series of feeble attempts at recapturing the spirit of their youth (“Are you sure Applebee’s the best place to meet hot women?”).

Funny moments are scattered throughout this section, although the gags rely on some awfully ancient stuff: Pot brownies? Check. Ogling baristas? Check. Horrible dating advice related in detail by misinformed swingers? That’s a Farrelly regular feature.

It figures that the wives also will have some kind of adventure, as they have taken off for a week of R&R of their own. Give the Farrellys some credit: Unlike their recent competitors in the manchild-comedy game, they calculate the female side of the equation, even if the boys dominate the running time.

In the supporting ranks, Stephen Merchant (Ricky Gervais’ frequent partner in crime) adds a couple of moments, and Richard Jenkins occupies the most prominent of the “misinformed swinger” roles.

The scenes that work in “Hall Pass” are outnumbered by the lame. The premise never stops being a contrivance, even if things improve in the later scenes (especially the blackout punch-line), as the clock keeping ticking for the guys to pull off at least one extramarital dalliance with their “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

And the casting fails, too. I like Owen Wilson as much as the next person, but he seems morose and out-of-sync for much of this film. And Jason Sudeikis is like the guy you get when the usual second bananas (Paul Rudd? Ed Helms?) aren’t available.

Imagine Wilson’s role played with Jim Carrey’s neurotic appetite, and maybe the movie goes somewhere. As it is, “Hall Pass” feels like a collection of gags — including a couple of self-consciously OMG shockers — strung together with little connection.

“Hall Pass”

The Farrelly brothers return with a marital comedy about two husbands (Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis) given a week off from marriage by their somewhat bored wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate). Some jokes work, some don’t, but the strained premise and the self-consciously outrageous moments take their toll.

Rated: R for nudity, language, violence, subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Monroe, Marysville, Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.

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