How can a film with such a great premise, coupled with with a quartet of genuinely funny and talented actors, end up being such a terrible misfire?
Blame the Farrelly brothers, whose films are getting worse as the years go by, getting further and further away from what was once their crowning glory in There's Something About Mary.
Unfortunately, Mary was back in 1998, and the brothers haven't been able to cross over into the new millennium. (Remember Fever Pitch? Or the unwatchable remake of The Heartbreak Kid?)
In Hall Pass, 40-something best friends Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) have been married a long time but continue to blatantly check out other women in their wives' - played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate - presence.
Fed up with their hubbies' behavior and hoping to revitalize their marriages, the two women give the men a one week "hall pass" which allows them to do whatever they want, no questions asked.
The wives go up to Cape Cod so their hubbies can indulge. But shocker of all shockers, the one week pass doesn't turn out to be exactly what the guys envisioned.
Hall Pass' R-rating lets the filmmakers indulge in juvenile and largely unfunny gags involving masturbation, full frontal male nudity, pot smoking and T&A references. It all looks like a desperate attempt to hang on a genre that has long eclipsed them. Marrying together a a subject that is essentially a love letter to the institution of marriage with the kind of immature gross-out humor that made them famous in the late 90s, is not an ideal recipe here. Gags come and go without any through-lines or payoffs.
Additionally, Fred and Rick are so obvious about checking out and hitting on other women, it begs the question: why did they even get married? And what qualities did they posses that made their wives fall for them in the first place? Yet when push comes to shove, the duo step up to the plate to save their marriages, revealing sudden morals and maturities.
This constant gear shift between moments of sweetness contrasted with crass jokes makes for an uneven film that's confused about which direction it wants to go in. The film, the characters and the filmmakers are all having some sort of mid-life crisis here.
The talent is also wasted. For Wilson, this type of comedy is all-too familiar and he just walks through the motions of the film, rather than infusing it with any special charisma.
Sudeikis, in his first lead role in a feature, does well given the script, but one hopes that there is something out there than can better serve this talented actor, whose arsenal of characters on "Saturday Night Live" are always memorable. Funny, good-looking and charming, Sudeikis deserves way better than what he's given.
Applegate, who has always had a flair for comedy, gets barely any chance to showcase those skills. Fisher - who has built a nice career on television's "The Office" - doesn't show any comedic skills whatsoever.
Alyssa Milano appears in a career-embarrassing cameo as a rich wife with gigantic boobs, while Richard Jenkins must have only agreed to play an over-the-top aging bachelor for the paycheck. It's cringe-worthy watching the man who was nominated for an Oscar for a heartbreaking performance in "The Visitor" be reduced to this.
Then there is the stunt casting of Joy Behar as psychiatrist Dr. Lucy, who appears to be in the film for the sole reason that she can promote the movie to her female audience on "The View."
With the Farrelly's being put in the charge of The Three Stooges movie next, one certainly hopes the result will be vastly different than this.