Fans of the Farrelly brothers' raunchy -- and riotous -- films will find more of the same with this unapologetic adult chuckler.
The Farrellys ("There's Something About Mary," "Me, Myself & Irene") are more than happy to eschew etiquette and discretion for the sake of a good laugh, and both are tossed to the curb in "Hall Pass." Although the film's crude humor isn't ideal for a school assembly or church social, it is undeniably effective.
Longtime married couple Rick (Owen Wilson) and Maggie (Jenna Fischer of "The Office") have settled into something of a relationship rut. Rick sneaks glances at attractive women who stroll by, and Maggie feigns sleep when Rick is in the mood for sex. Their married pals Fred (Jason Sudeikis of "Saturday Night Live") and Grace (Christina Applegate) are in a similar stale state. Fred even sneaks off to his car at night to pleasure himself while Grace settles into bed.
For both couples there is still plenty of love, but little passion. After an eye-opening chat with their friend Lucy (Joy Behar of "The View" in a distracting cameo), Maggie and Grace decide to give their men each a "hall pass" -- a week off marriage, no questions asked. Encouraged by their oddball buddies, Rick and Fred set out for a week of single-guy debauchery. Meanwhile, Maggie and Grace enjoy a much-needed break themselves, partying with the hunky coach and players of a college baseball team.
There have been plenty of films about marriage doldrums/renewed romance, but a heap of quirky side characters and edgy humor make "Hall Pass" feel fresh. Accomplished character actor Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") is terrific as a lifelong bachelor, and relative newcomers Derek Waters and Nicky Whelan charm as a maniacal DJ and sultry barista, respectively.
Wilson does his everyman best, though the actor looks as though he's aged about 10 years in the past two. He doesn't demonstrate the same spark he had in "Zoolander" (2001) or "Wedding Crashers" (2005), but he does project a sympathetic charisma that serves the film well. Sudeikis -- a quickly rising star in the comedy world -- shines with a throw-caution-to-the-wind performance, and Fischer and Applegate are perfectly cast in important roles and keep the story from unraveling.
This type of comedy is not for everyone. "Crass," "vulgar" and "inappropriate" are words that will likely be used in describing "Hall Pass." Fortunately for the Farrellys, so will "entertaining," "fun" and "hilarious."
Those who applauded films like "Wedding Crashers" and "The Hangover" (2009) will gleefully skip down to "Hall," while viewers who reviled the two aforementioned comedies can take an easy pass.