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HALL PASS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Richard Jenkins, Christina Applegate
Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: June 14, 2011

Last night, I fake chowed a DJ's mom.”

Film ***1/2

A comedy about men unwilling to succumb to the pains and pressures of married life from the minds of The Farrelly Brothers. If that set of words doesn't give you an idea of the sort of comedy you're in for, I don't know what else will. And if you happen to be happily married, well this movie may already be a tough sell once you are aware of the premise.

But a comedy can only be judged on how much effect was put on the funny bone, and Hall Pass delivers a grand amount. In what has proven to be something of a weak year for comedies (cough-cough, The Hangover Part II, cough-cough), this is one of the very few exceptions. It's also the funniest film to come from The Farrellys since Kingpin, which for me remains their best work to date.

Rick (Owen Wilson) is a devoted husband and family man, but his married status hasn't seemed to put a leash on his wandering eye. He even manages to do this while out in public with wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer), who can't help but be baffled every time she witnesses it. His lifelong friend and fellow married chum, Fred (Jason Sudeikis), is guilty of the same thing and is even worse about it, leaving wife Grace (Christina Applegate) constantly annoyed.

As far as the wives see it, at least they're not cheating so all is good. That is until, in one of the movie's most howlingly funny moments, Rick and Fred are caught on camera discussing details about certain things I can't exactly mention during a friend's luxurious house tour. This leaves both their wives largely, and understandably, embarrassed.

This causes Maggie to put the marriage to the ultimate test. She gives Rick a hall pass, which is basically a week off from marriage to do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. Fred is also given one by Grace, but for a different reason that I will dare not explain.

The fact that I can't go into detail about certain scenes should be a good indicator of The Farrellys working their insane comedic magic.

So the two set off for a planned week of nothing but babe hunting and deal closing. Things do get off to a rocky start when they and their band of guy pals make the mistake of choosing Applebee's as a hot chick pick up spot. The next day, a game a golf at a pricey hotel resort turns disastrous when the guys decide to over-indulge in pot loaded brownies.

Meanwhile, Maggie and Grace have ventured to Cape Cod and are tempted to flirt with members of the town baseball team. Maggie catches the eye of the team's coach, while Grace ends up flirting with one of the players, and a much younger one at that. The way Grace sees it, their husbands are off having a blast so why can't they.

Just when it looks like Rick and Fred's week is resulting in nothing but strike outs, thanks to embarrassing pick up lines and such (one involving Ireland was so funny it requires an instant replay), they strike gold when old school player/mentor Coakly (Richard Jenkins) rolls into town. He accompanies the two at a night club, showing them how the game is played. Jenkins is in scene-stealing form here, once again reminding us that he possesses a comic talent equal to his dramatic work.

It results in Fred finally succeeding, as he takes a pick up back to his hotel room...and I will once again cease from describing what happens, except to say that you will be shocked and amazed at the visual gag that ends this scene. And Rick also succeeds in attracting hot bait in the form of a striking Aussie coffee server. Will he get lucky, or will his heart get in the way and remind him what he's been blind to all this time

What Hall Pass really soars at is the same quality the very best comedies from the Farrellys have displayed, which is their ability to set up a joke or visual gag you think you can see coming, only to be outrageously stunned by the actual gag. And there are many priceless moments here, all of which do an extremely good job at earning the film's R rating. Two scenes in particular, one involving Rick having to be pulled out of a gym hot tub after accidentally falling asleep and one where a person thinks they're about to throw up, will no question have you shocked and laughing at the same time.

Owen Wilson has always been known for his natural charm on screen, but this movie is a firm reminder that he's still a gifted comedic presence, and he mixes both qualities into the role of Rick. You can't help but laugh at a moment when he's dancing in a pathetic manner to impress a girl at a nightclub. And Jason Sudeikis, one of the funniest members of the current case of Saturday Night Live, gets to show off some serious comedic chops in his biggest screen role yet, and boy does he walk away with countless moments and one-liners.

Hall Pass is clear indication that The Farrelly Brothers still have plenty of comedic juice to deliver, even though many critics seem to unfortunately feel the opposite. They may have had a couple misses in the years since There's Something About Mary (Fever Pitch and The Heartbreak Kid immediately spring to mind), but this one is them back in superb top form, and right up there with the comedy classics that made these brothers household names. This is one of the best comedies to come out this year, so if you need to have your funny bone tickled and aren't afraid of The Farrelly's un-PC approach, then you absolutely must give this one a pass!

Oh, and leave the movie running when the end credits start, because there's a magnificently funny and deranged sequence a few minutes in!

Video ****

This Blu-ray release from Warner features a much livelier and visually engaging presentation that you might expect for just a simple comedy. The movie is actually very well made and superbly shot (something the Farrelly's have gotten better with over time), and the 1080p makes grand use of displaying it. The bright color palettes really do show off quite remarkably in many cases, even in darker interiors such as the nightclub sequence. Not a single visual flaw to be found, as there is nothing but consistent clarity and image detail from beginning to end!

Audio ***1/2

The DTS HD mix is put to extreme good use in areas that are common in a Farrelly Brothers comedy; extreme physical comedy and a good dose of music on the soundtrack. It certainly is nice to hear “Wouldn't It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys in HD glory, even if just for a few seconds. Dialogue delivery is terrifically handled, as it balances very well with the various surroundings (I keep mentioning the nightclub sequence, but it's the best example here...and will help turn your living room into a boomin' nightclub itself). For a comedy, this does provide something of a kick!

Features *

The only major letdown of the Blu-ray is the disappointing lack of extras, especially when you take into a account that just about all of the past movies by the Farrelly's have gotten stellar treatment in this department. We do get two versions of the movie; the Theatrical Version and an Extended Cut, or “Enlarged Edition” as it is called here, which contains about six extra minutes worth of additional scenes. All we get in the way of extras is one Deleted Scene, though a funny one I might add, and a very short Gag Reel.

I seriously hope this doesn't become the normal level of extras for the Blu-ray format, because I've started to notice quite a few newer titles getting the same poor treatment as far as extras are concerned. Just throwing a request out there to please take advantage of the disc capacity and make us cinephiles happy.

Summary:

Hall Pass is hands down the best comedy from The Farrelly Brothers in years. If you're a fan of their superbly risqué form of extreme comedy, and have been disappointed with many of the comedies of recent memory, then you must seek this one out!

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