It’s been thirteen years since Cameron Diaz sat opposite Ben Stiller with that hair-do in There’s Something About Mary and arguably the last time the Farrelly Brothers succeeded in making anyone laugh, subsequently punishing audiences with Me, Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal and the truly awful Stuck On You. Prophets of their own demise, they have indeed gone from Dumb to Dumber, each successive film following a strict downhill trajectory, grasping at opportunities to shock and appal in a misguided attempt at ‘comedy’.
Perfectly cast to mirror his directors’ creative slump is Owen Wilson, struggling himself to resurrect a career afflicted by a run of poor decisions, lumped here with the role of Rick whose wife Maggie (Jenny Fischer), fed up with his hungry eyes, grants him a “week off marriage” with the contrived notion of “getting it out of his system” and thus re-invigorating their love for one another. The “it” is supposedly every married man’s dream – to have sex with multiple partners with the explicit consent of their spouse before returning to the domestic fold. When his best friend Fred (Jason Sudeikis) is similarly issued with a permission slip for an exhaustive bout of adultery, all hell breaks loose as they re-discover their ineptitude with women and the growing realisation they may in fact love their wives enough not to actively pursue extra-marital sex.
In typical Farrelly Brothers fashion there are masturbation gags, several set-ups revolving around fecal matter and crass sexual mishaps, this time the “fake chow” – a method which enables the administrator to trick women into thinking they are having cunnilingus performed on them. It’s emblematic of the film’s awkward approach to female genitalia and women in general, including some thoroughly distasteful references to rape.
Once the lessons are inevitably being learnt, Hall Pass has exhausted itself and its audience, in part a consequence of its endless scatological humour which includes one character repeating the line “I need a poo”. The punch line sees the same man later defecating in the bunker of a golf course to less than hilarious effect.
Ironically, most of the running time is spent wishing the Farrelly Brothers could indeed be flushed but they’d probably only float, the underwhelming body of work they’ve excreted over the past decade evidence of their ability to survive despite repeated failures (albeit financially rewarding ones).
A dreadful exercise from start to finish, Hall Pass is to be avoided and should serve as a stark wake-up call to those anticipating the Farrelly Brothers’ Three Stooges to heed this warning shot and take every precautionary measure not to come into contact with it.