Friday, February 25, 2011

Farrellys Are Back As "Hall Pass" Kicks Ass

Welcome back, Farrelly Brothers.

After a bit of a creative funk that bottomed out with the atrocious “Fever Pitch” (though it was followed by the underrated “The Heartbreak Kid”), the Rhode Island siblings of scat are back at a level not seen in well over a decade with their latest flick, “Hall Pass”, a return to their sweet-but-hysterically raunchy roots that had the Common theater missing jokes from laughing too hard at the previous one (or they missed them because of the 4-year-old that some shithead parents decided to bring to a sexually graphic R-rated flick at bedtime). And though the flick is right in the approaching-middle-aged-married-guy’s wheelhouse (you married pricks will find yourself nodding along more than once), this doozy will easily play to the ADHD, born-with-a-smartphone set as well. It’s an “Is the grass always greener?” tale that crosses all demos.

I was lucky enough to see a pre-release screening of “There’s Some About Mary” back when I still had hair and if that crowd was a 10 on the laughter scale, Tuesday night’s screening was a 9.5. You’ll need to make room on your DVD shelf (or iPod) for this flick right alongside “Kingpin”, “Dumb and Dumber”, and “Mary”. It deserves the space.

Though the premise is unlikely for so-called “normal” couples and a potential deal-breaker for plausibility, two wives giving their hubbies a week of free reign to do as they please and scratch any itches they may have to get them out of their system, it’s set up in such a funny way that you buy in from the get-go (and who’d a thunk Joy Behar would be the one to convince you?). Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christine Applegate) are married to Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis), a pair of hornball dorks who just might be the slightly wiser, pussified spiritual older brothers of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.

With all due respect to Wilson’s prior funny endeavors (and he’s very good here, finally laying off the whole stoner bit save for one riotous scene), Sudeikis absolutely shines in a star-making role and steals the movie. He and the Farrellys are a match made in comedy heaven. The SNL vet’s take on Rick is pitch-perfect and he fucking nails it—no two ways about it. I’d be shocked if he’s still working for Lorne Michaels in the ’12-’13 season.

The wives head off to the Cape with the kids (keep an eye out for a Sox legend) and Rick and Fred head out with their buddies…to Applebee’s on Day One (duhn-duhn). The hilarity starts in the shitty chain and just amps up each day. Meanwhile, on the Cape, the wives essentially give themselves a ‘hall pass’ at the same time to provide a little bit of balance to the movie. Fischer and Applegate have more than token roles and are able to show their comedic chops as well. But make no mistake; this movie is about the two leads and the adventures with their buddies, including a nearly unrecognizable, scene-stealing Richard Jenkins as the confirmed bachelor we all dreamed of being one day (right?). Stephen Merchant of the original “The Office” and J.B. Smoove from “Curb Your Enthusiam” also chip in with great turns.

I won’t play spoiler here and give away all the good parts. And there are many. Gross, “holy shit”, no-fucking-way parts. One-liners galore. Bodily discharges. The obligatory stoned scene. Trust me, the previews spoil very little if only because the really good shit won’t fly on TV. Let’s just say Jason Segel’s dick-wiggling turn in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” may move a notch or two down the cinematic, um, totem pole after the gym scene.

The ‘Gansett is prominently featured throughout the many boozing scenes in the flick. As for the filmmakers’ penchant for ex-NHLers, one of the derisively-named “Massachusetts Highway Patrol” officers (in MA Statie doppelganger vehicles) is billed as Jeff Norton. I didn’t recognize him without his helmet on but I can only guess it was the former San Jose Shark who is a Massachusetts native.

It’s a safe bet that the Farrellys launched some new vocabulary with this crisp script that may have people looking down next time they’re getting down. It will undoubtedly approach the quotability of its predecessors. More importantly, the two guys who made Hollywood comedies take a delightfully decrepit turn in the ‘90s have gotten their sick swagger back. And fans of filthily funny flicks everywhere will rejoice this weekend and in the coming months. The Farrellys are back and in vintage form. If you need some belly laughs to chase away the winter blues, see this fucking movie. You’ll genuinely feel better leaving the theater. A-

“Hall Pass” opens nationwide today.

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