Review by Michael Jacobson
Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black, Jason Alexander, Tony Robbins
Directors: Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: July 2, 2002
you ever heard the phrase, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’?”
YOU ever heard the song ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’??”
are, if you’re going to be offended by Shallow Hal, the offense is
going to come when you first hear the premise of the movie. On the basis of that, you might either 1) shun the film
entirely, or 2) watch the picture begrudgingly, ready to unleash venom upon it.
Hal, if you
haven’t heard already, is about a guy named Hal (Black) who has a hang-up
about physical beauty when it comes to women…he’d rather be with a lovely
lady that treats him like dirt than a girl with lesser looks and a heart of
gold. A chance meeting with Tony
Robbins (yes, that Tony Robbins) alters his outlook…from that point on,
he sees women’s inner beauty manifested on the outside.
The crust of the gag becomes his burgeoning relationship with a 300-plus
pound woman who looks like Gwyneth Paltrow to him.
potential for offense is definitely there…after all, it continually seems like
overweight people are the last remaining group society deems okay to belittle.
Make Hal’s girlfriend a different race, religion, or sex, and you’ve
got left-wing groups coming out in droves to protest.
Make her fat, and it’s all clean, harmless fun…and if obese people
feel humiliated, well, then, they just can’t take a joke, can they?
being said, I personally don’t think Shallow Hal wanders too far into
insulting waters. The picture was
made by the Farrelly brothers, who’ve made a reputation for themselves by
being politically incorrect in such films as There’s Something About Mary or
Me, Myself & Irene. But
though their humor tends to go for the taboo subjects and cross all kinds of
boundaries, there’s usually a subtle, inherent sweetness that offsets a
potentially mean spirit.
this picture, they do get a few cheap laughs out of Rosemary’s size (including
one of the year’s funniest visual gags that involves a swimming pool), but
each one serves to further our sympathies for both her and Hal.
Rosemary is a wonderful character, kind and sweet…we like her and root
for her throughout the film, while at the same time, wondering how Hal will
react when his newfound abilities to see inner beauty inevitably wear off.
think the Farrellys also manage to sidestep potential offense by casting Jack
Black in the role of Hal. Black
isn’t conventionally handsome by any means, and a bit on the round side
himself. It helps us to see Hal
more as a person with a problem than just an image snob, which is how we would
have looked at him had someone like Heath Ledger portrayed him.
Even better is the casting of Jason Alexander as Hal’s best buddy,
who’s even more shallow and more unattractive, spouting the worst toupee
I’ve seen since William Shatner in the Star Trek movies!
opposite side of the casting coin, of course, is the radiant and petite Paltrow,
the last person you’d expect to see sporting such a full figure.
Both actors are capable of making us laugh while at the same time getting
to heart of a pair of damaged characters who seem perfect for one another if
they could just get over some obvious obstacles.
point isn’t subtle, but certainly valid…and one, I’m pleased to say,
isn’t lost on Hal, which is the film’s final trump card.
If a Shallow Hal can tread through the waters of possibly dangerous
comedy and come out on the other side with a valuable lesson learned, maybe we
for two of Jack Black’s real life partners in an early break room scene: his girlfriend, comic Laura Kightlinger, and his Tenacious D
bandmate, Kyle Gass.
is a commendable anamorphic effort from Fox.
Shallow Hal has good coloring and crispness from start to finish,
save a couple of softer shots that take place in lower lit scenes that are
minor. Detail levels are good
throughout, with bright natural tones and little noticeable grain or compression
5.1 soundtrack offers some dynamic punch for comic effect, and serves both the
music and the dialogue with clarity. The
rear stage is used only marginally but effectively in a few crowd oriented
scenes; most of the audio comes from the front, however, and comes across with
good balance and smooth panning effects.
extras are plentiful here, starting with a commentary track by the Farrelly
brothers (good, but wouldn’t you have loved one with Jack Black?), plus two
short documentaries. The one for
HBO is marginal, focusing too much on what makes people shallow than the movie,
but the Comedy Central one is entertaining, informative, and engaging.
are 11 deleted scenes with optional Farrelly commentary, a Shelby Lynne music
video, featurettes on both the make up and one key stunt sequence (the pool
gag), plus the trailer and animated menus with sound. A nice package overall.