For being such an accomplished screenwriter, Owen Wilson sure has a bad nose for scripts. 'Hall Pass' is as phony as they come -- a plasticine, high-concept sex comedy so far removed from human reason that you go beyond feeling sorry for the cast and start to hold them in open contempt. In a mere 105 minutes, the Farrelly Brothers work very hard to extinguish Owen Wilson's star power, kill Jason Sudeikis's movie career before it even starts, and paint the lovely Jenna Fischer an ungodly shade of Hulk Hogan orange. If 'Hall Pass' is even remotely indicative of modern sexual politics, a lifelong vow of chastity looks incredibly appealing right about now.
Take, for example, a scene in which Wilson's character verbally dresses down a barista. Family man Wilson's been given a "hall pass" by his frustrated wife (Fischer) -- a one-week break from all the commitments of marriage, including sexual fidelity. Because no one in this film behaves like an actual person, Wilson immediately starts chasing tail, specifically an Australian bombshell (Nicky Whelan) who works at his local coffee shop. This enrages her intensely jealous co-worker to the point where he finally speaks up when Wilson's ogling goes too far. Wilson gives him a verbal beatdown in return, meant to be hilarious, all about Wilson's superior social station in life (un-ironically delivered while wearing a Harvard T-shirt), but the scene only comes across as ugly and cruel.
Point of fact, Wilson's character is so unlikable in the film that next to nothing works. Scenes intended to be heart-warming and genuine are instead desperate and pathetic. Moments that are supposed to be rowdy and sexy feel juvenile and limp. Not helping matters is Jason Sudeikis, as vanilla an SNL performer as you're likely to find, tagging along, not playing a character, but an archetype -- the loutish best friend. Wilson may be unlikeable, but Sudeikis is his cardboard clone, with all of the caveman brain and not a single ounce of Wilson's overreaching energy.
'Hall Pass' is exactly the kind of inorganic comedy in which characters behave the way the script needs them to behave at any given moment, regardless of rhyme or reason, in service of tired gags and crass product placement. Neither man seems lascivious enough to earn his hall pass in the first place, but once they have them, these grown men can't wait to screw as many women as possible. Fischer, along with Christina Applegate, practically wasted as Sudeikis's wife, behaves just as irrationally as the men do. Not because it fits their characters (such as they are), but because the Farrellys' idea of politically correct, fair-is-fair sexuality means everyone acts like a foolish, horny teenager. There are no good, decent people here, only selfish, idiotic ones.
Technical issues also plague this amateur hour. Out-of-focus shots, badly Photoshopped props and grossly inconsistent hair and makeup turn an ugly script into an ugly movie. These vital elements of filmmaking are usually invisible, and to see them botched in a studio film means a whole lot of someones weren't paying attention. Poor Jenna Fischer's skin and hair are the same exact color. Apparently, the artificial heart of 'Hall Pass' only pumps self-tanning lotion.
Have the Farrellys lost their touch? Once adept at crafting trashy, lowbrow gags way too funny to be ignored, they seem totally tin-eared with 'Hall Pass.' Nobody, not even the directors, believe in the work they're doing here. Who can blame them? It's hard to blame anyone for not giving their all to something so aimlessly witless.