In the 1990s, Bobby and Peter Farrelly became synonymous with the gross-out gag, but their best work always had a genuine kind of warmth and sweetness. After they reached their peak with There’s Something About Mary in 1998, that sweetness turned forced, and the gross-out gags obligatory; they became separate considerations instead of one naturally springing from the other. Hall Pass is the Farrellys’ first film after the repugnant The Heartbreak Kid (2007), and it reaches roughly the “eh” level of Stuck on You (2003) and Fever Pitch (2005). If the Farrellys were the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team, this would be their Hot Shots! Part Deux.
Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play buddies Rick and Fred, married and living dull suburban lives (Rick has kids, Fred does not). Their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) are also buddies, and the women each grow tired of their husbands’ unstoppable libidos. So after some hemming and hawing comes the titular “hall pass,” or a week off from marriage, during which the guys hope to score with lots of chicks. Unfortunately, they’re so disconnected from reality that they don’t even know that they have silly haircuts and that white undershirts are not sexy. Their adventures are, not surprisingly, rather inert. If the Farrellys genuinely cared about these people, they would have realized that Applegate was one of the funniest supporting actresses in the business and given her something to do.
None of what they do give is terribly surprising; jokes about showing men’s penises are routine now. Even the big showstopper “hair gel”-type joke (involving an upset tummy and a bathtub) is only worth an amused chuckle.