Jul 042011
 

Married man? Over 40? Feeling like if it wasn’t for the wife and kids you could really hook up with all those 20-something gym teaching, yoga practicing, pole dancing, models you see everywhere? Well the latest comedy from the Farrelly brothers (the team who gave the world Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary) gives two such men a chance to do just that, when they’re given a week off from marriage, no-questioned asked.

Yes Rick (Owen Wilson, Wedding Crashers) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis, What Happens in Vegas) are granted their no-question asked, free pass to have sex with whoever they want (or Hall Pass for short) by their wives (played by The Office’s Jenna Fischer and Anchorman’s Christina Applegate respectively), not because they’re feeling a little kinky, or fancy spicing things up, but because they’re sick and tired of catching their husbands ogling other women, and believe the pass will give them a chance to “get it out of their system”, and realize that not only do they have great wives, but that they really can’t pick up any women anymore.

Seeing the pass not as a challenge but a foregone conclusion, Rick and Fred relish the chance to get back into the game, and get their rocks off with the never-ending supply of hot girls they seem to see on a daily basis; something which clearly doesn’t come as easy as the pair expect, when we watch them fail in a number of hilarious, and oh so realistic ways (including planning a wild night that turns into simply having a meal with a bunch of friends at a family restaurant, and then being too tired to go out).

Along the way Rick and Fred are accompanied by a group of friends who don’t have hall passes but, like anyone watching, are eager to see how the duo fair in their quest; and watching their various misadventures proves to be both down to Earth, and hilariously funny at the same time; seeing them experiment with pot (which turns into a golfing trip like no other), spend time at the arcade, and try out some of the worst pick-up lines in history (including such tried and tested lines as “does this napkin smell like chloroform?” and “my cock just passed away, I was wondering if I could bury it inside you?”).

All the while however, their wives (who have taken the kids and gone out of town for the week) are getting close to a couple of college baseball types, and viewers are left not only laughing at Rick and Fred’s antics (which get them into trouble, and a few pretty embarrassing situations along the way) but wondering how far the women will go with their potential flings, if Rick will hook up with the hot Australian in the coffee shop (Nicky Whelan, Neighbours), and if Fred (the most headstrong, sex-crazed, and determined, potential cheat of the group) can get any kind of action at all (after a few drinks and a barrage of under-appreciated pick-up lines leads to numerous rejections, and an altercation with a man who can only be described as a giant).

For a Farrelly brothers comedy it’s quite surprising how grown-up Hall Pass feels; sure you end up laughing at someone lying on the floor with a giant cock next to his face, a drugged up married man taking a dump in a very public and unusual place, and the vivid descriptions of certain sex acts, but; it’s surprising just how many husbands and wives will be nodding their heads in agreement, and telling each other “that just what you/I’d do.”

And it’s that level of recognition that makes Hall Pass a resounding success, as with so many people being able to recognize themselves, or couples they know, in the guys on screen, and the film itself being much more down to Earth, less dark, and feeling like less of an attack, than many R-rated comedies (such as The Hangover Part 2), it’s much more easily accessible to not only teenagers, but every middle aged married couple (though it’s not one they should really watch with the kids).

Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis also brilliantly handle the leading roles; as two boring, sensible, middle-aged men who love the idea of a fantasy fling, but have no idea what to do when the opportunity is handed to them; and are joined by a number of other comedy stars, including the strong and believable Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under); in a brilliant turn as the pair’s sex-guru; Larry Joe Campbell (According to Jim), and Stephen Merchant (Extras); who’s really the film’s stand out star, a true scene stealer, and easily the funniest character in the whole movie.

Hall Pass might be a little raunchy for some viewers, and it’s probably not one for your Gran, but everyone from teenagers to pensioners will get something out of, and find it supremely funny; it’s not too memorable once the credits roll (and speaking of which, the Stephen Merchant character sketch during the closing credits is brilliant), but while you’re watching Hall Pass is thoroughly engaging, properly funny, and, while it feels more grown up, and less shocking, it’s probably the best comedy the Farrelly Brothers have made since There’s Something About Mary.

Picture:

However, despite being a truly funny film that’s guaranteed to have you giggling like a school-girl, Hall Pass’ Blu-ray picture transfer can’t live up that level of quality, and is noticeably poor in a number of shots (even to an untrained eye) where the generally adequate black levels are left severely lacking.

There’s evidence of slight banding, and minimal edge enhancement, but overall the picture looks fairly solid; with a level of fine detail and texturing that may not be as good as a number of other current releases, but is still miles ahead of the DVD release (this has been checked), a wide ranging colour palette which is handled well by the transfer’s impressive contrast, and a generally consistent level of grain that’s never too intrusive.

Quality levels do dip in a number of scenes that become shockingly bad (walking into Appleby’s being one memorable example), but overall the quality of the Hall Pass Blu-ray transfer isn’t too bad; it’s acceptable, far better than the standard definition transfer, and easily watchable, though just feels a little flat and lifeless; making it a transfer that’s unlikely to amaze anyone.

Audio:

Similarly the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track awarded to the Hall Pass Blu-ray release is adequate, though not in the least bit impressive; sure the dialogue is crisp, clean, and undeniably clear (and even enters the soundstage with a touch of directionality on occasion), but there’s little flair to the mix, and nothing to really grab anyone’s attention, despite the track containing decent bass (on the rare occasions it’s used), great music reproduction, and a touch of ambience in the rarely utilized rear channels; making it a good track, but far from a great one.

Extras:

Hall Pass also comes to blu-ray with a disappointing lack of special features, as aside from the obligatory comedy gag-reel (which is no funnier than your average selection of line-foul-ups), and a singular deleted scene, which is amusing but not enough to satisfy a fans desire for more; and certainly not as fulfilling as a commentary track, making of, and featurette or two, could have been.

The Bottom Line:

Hall Pass might be a little uneven (not knowing if it should be a full-blown R-rated shocker like The Hangover 2, or a more tame affair such as Wild Hogs), and takes a while to get to the first major laugh, but as so many people will be able to relate to both the guys and girls in this film, and feel themselves laughing uncontrollably at the less than inspired misadventures of Rick and Fred, it’s hard not to recommend it.

Sure the picture and audio quality could have been better (even though they’re much stronger than their DVD counterparts), and it would have been nice to have had a few more special features included, but what’s really important about this Blu-ray release is that Hall Pass is one very funny film; suited to just about any Farrelly brothers fan, any comedy fan, and any married couple; it’s the funniest film the Farrelly’s have made since There’s Something About Mary, and well worth a blind buy, sending the kids to bed, and having a giggle with your partner whilst watching (just don’t try asking for your own Hall Pass at the end – it might not go down quite as easily as the lads’ adventure).

Matt Wheeldon.