Hall Pass

Review by Guest Columnist Judd Nissen [: {)-

For the record, I am not a “professional” reviewer. Or writer. I do, however, know how to write, and I do see a lot . . . A LOT . . . of movies, and do discuss and recommend them to friends and family all the time.

With that background, themovieguys.net’s Paul P. was kind enough to let me submit this very biased review of the new Farrelly brothers’ comedy, “Hall Pass”. The bias comes from the fact that one of my closest friends in the world (and not in the Hollywood closest friends way, where you haven’t ever really met the person, but the kind where you have family ties that go back to the old home town closest friends way) Pete Jones, wrote the script with the Farrely brothers and Kevin Barnett, as well as came up with the original story.

If you are any kind of movie nerd like myself, you’ll remember Pete Jones as the first winner of the Project Greenlight screenwriting competition, where he got to direct the movie version of his winning script, “Stolen Summer.” You may also have seen him on HBO’s “reality” series “Project Greenlight,” where a camera crew followed him around during the filming of the movie. I could go on for days about that whole experience, as I was there with him in Chicago, but let the real quotation marks around reality stand in for the air quotes you can’t see me making when I speak that sentence aloud.

You probably didn’t, however, see him as Bobby Riley in his sophomore movie venture “Outing Riley,” which he wrote, directed and starred in with Nathan Fillion (“Castle”, “Firefly”) and Stoney Westmoreland (you’d know him if you saw him). It was a great little indie film that I produced with Pat Peach, that ended up going direct to DVD (rentable via Netflix and other fine rental stores, do yourself a favor and see it).

“Hall Pass” stars Owen Wilson as Rick and SNL’s Jason Sudeikis as Fred (though after this performance people will soon be saying “Hall Pass’s Jason Sudeikis”), two successful suburbanites, (mostly) happily married, respectively, to Jenna Fischer (from “The Office”) as Maggie, and Christina Applegate (who, to guys my age, will always be Kelly Bundy from “Married with Children”) as Grace. The two couples have been in their marriages for well over ten years each and have fallen into the kind of rut/routine that most (read; all – sorry, honey) marriages fall into. Not enough sex, communication, adoration, etc.

When Rick gets busted for ogling a passing girl’s ass, it sets events in motion that lead Maggie to grant Rick a “hall pass”, a week off from marriage, no questions asked, no consequences, while she takes the kids to her folks’ place in Cape Cod. Grace follows Maggie’s lead and also grants eternal horn-dog Fred the same pass, joins Maggie on the Cape, and we’re off to the races.

Or are we? With their three married-but-no-hall-pass friends in tow (played by J.B. Smoove, Larry Joe Campbell, and the sublimely hilarious Stephen Merchant), as a cheering section trying to live vicariously thru their newfound freedom, Rick and Fred set off on their quest for some “strange.” It’s slow goings at first, as they start out looking for single ladies at the local Applebee’s and end up over-eating and turning in early so they can get a fresh start the next day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, after all.

The following few days aren’t much better for the guys in term of scoring with the ladies, however, their wives, who realize the hall pass works both ways, are attracting all sorts of attention up on the Cape. Maggie flirts with the coach of a college baseball team, while Grace gets hit on by one of the young players. Meanwhile, back home, Rick (Owen) is making some headway with a hottie barista played by insanely attractive Aussie actress Nicky Whelan.

I won’t give away too much else, except to say that there are two scenes in this movie that can be considered instant classics; a near drowning of Owen’s character and a sneeze from a potential conquest of Jason’s. Just those two . . . well, the golf scene is pretty great too. And the surveillance scene is damn funny. And the DJ kid is a fricken riot. And Fred in the mini-van. And pretty much any time our boys are trying to actually pick-up women. Oh, wait, the entire time Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins is on screen is laugh out loud funny. I’m sure when I see it again, I’ll remember even more, it’s really a solid comedy, start to finish (including an after-credit scene you should stay for).

The Farrelly brothers have gotten great performances out of Wilson and Sudeikis who both come across as everyday, likeable doofuses we all know (or are). Jenna and Christina both look great and are easily believable as the “milf” and the “cougar.” The supporting cast members do a great job filling in the gaps. Jones and company’s banter between characters is great and the situations they’re put into are pure, envelope-pushing comedy gold as only the Farrellys can deliver.

My guess is the critics won’t really like this movie because it is a little too raunchy for middle-America, the language is a little vulgar at times, and there is some nudity, but it did get an R rating for a reason. I, however, actually seek those qualities out in a movie and this didn’t disappoint in the least.

I went in knowing I was going to have to like this flick, because my friend Pete was so intimately involved in it, but was really pleasantly surprised at how freakin funny it was, and how much I found myself laughing my ass off. I couldn’t be happier for, or more proud of, Pete for finally getting his moment in the spotlight, and hope he can parlay this into bigger and better writing gigs in the future.

Go see “Hall Pass” so we can keep these kinds of movies coming (and keep my friend working, he’s got three kids, you know). We could all use a good laugh in this crazy, mixed up world, and “Hall Pass” delivers. Big time.

– Judd Nissen worked in the TV and film industry from 1991 thru 2008 in every capacity you can think of; from office p.a. on “Groundhog Day” to Chris Farley’s driver on “Black Sheep”, from directing episodes of Discovery Channel’s “Biker Build-Off” to producing the independent feature film “Outing Riley.” He now works in the themed entertainment industry for a company that designs museum exhibits and theme park attractions, though does dip his toes back in the TV/film pool every now and then.

Directed by: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Release Date: February 25, 2011
Run Time: 105 minutes
Country: USA
Rated: R
Distributor: New Line Cinema


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