Blu-Ray Review: Hall Pass

“Words hurt” is Hall Pass’ most common refrain (shy of “What’s a hall pass?”), but squandered comedic potential stings a bit more. The Farrelly Brothers – coming off their misguided and borderline mean-spirited take on The Heartbreak Kid – try to make something like There’s Something About Everyone Besides Mary, a mixture of middle-aged desperation and low-brow humor that rarely congeals into genuine hilarity.

Rick and Fred (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) are respectively married to Maggie and Grace (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate), but that doesn’t stop them from gawking at every other woman that passes by as if they were single teens and not married thirty-somethings. The ladies decide to grant the guys a “hall pass,” a week-long, penalty-free pardon from the bounds of matrimony in order to serve as something of a sexual pressure valve.

As a concept, it’s laughable, maybe even morally reprehensible, though well-implemented in last year’s indie dramedy, The Freebie. When the joke eventually becomes that these guys couldn’t capitalize on their glorious “Get Out of Marriage Free” card if they tried, the potential for laughs is there. Unfortunately, the teenage mindset of our leads and their pals (including Stephen Merchant, whose mid-credits epilogue is easily the film’s highlight) means that we get to watch Rick, Fred and friends consume pot brownies on the golf course, botch pick-up lines from the Internet and visit a massage parlor with all the tact of tenth-graders.

The Farrellys cobble their antics together with poor ADR, bad Photoshop work, egregious product placement and a pair of shameless gross-out moments meant to evoke Mary’s most infamous gag that only come off as calculated attempts to elicit the same type of wild reaction at the expense of the relatively reasonable relationship concerns that drove Ben Stiller to do his dirty deed. The wives’ own experience with the hall pass brings a maudlin streak to the picture, while Farrelly standby Richard Jenkins shows up as Coakley, the unlikeliest of horndogs, adding a slightly welcome air of sleaze to the proceedings.

By the time everything comes to a head with a mad dash in a wrecked minivan, only the semblance of a potentially raucous farce remains. The joke is supposed to be that it’s sad to see these guys so desperate for a lay, but in truth, it’s even sadder to see the brothers this desperate for a laugh.

The Blu-ray transfer here fully conveys the film’s sitcom-level technical merits. An included extended cut of the film runs six minutes longer and hardly benefits from it (unless you relish a fleeting appearance by The Social Network’s Armie Hammer as a club bouncer or the sight of Owen Wilson getting smothered by a python). Extras are limited to a single deleted scene involving Coakley bluffing his way out of a DUI (after yet another example of flagrant product placement) and a brief, limp gag reel. I would hardly call the former “outrageous” or the latter “hilarious,” but the text on the back cover insists as much.