REVIEW: Hall Pass

4 07 2011

It’s a shame that “Hall Pass” doesn’t have a less contrived script or a bit more maturity.  If it had these things, it would be one heck of a comedy.  But alas, it doesn’t, and what we are stuck with is a few decent laughs held together by a string of ridiculous events.

It could be worse, though, as Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play off each other pretty well.  Their sex-crazed babbling combined with a blooming barely-adolescent brain and the libido of a retirement home patient re-entering the game is absolutely outlandish.  Yet as childish as practically every line and situation was, I would find myself chuckling in spite of it, mostly along with Sudeikis.  Maybe it’s because he’s used to finding nuggets of gold inside of crap at “Saturday Night Live,” but whatever it is, the man is some kind of funny.   Wilson, on the other hand, feels past his prime with humor quality receding almost as precipitously as his hairline.

But these two hopeless husbands get a chance to live out their dreams in order to relieve their woebegone wives (played by Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate).  In the words of Joy Behar, it’s a “hall pass.”  The movie never really cashes in on the high concept, just as Wilson and Sudeikis’ helpless sex drive leads them nowhere while their wives, in the words of Justin Timberlake, “get their sexy on.”

The stupid shenanigans distract from anything meaningful that “Hall Pass” might have to say about marriage.  I’m doubting there actually was anything in the way of commentary as the characters sure don’t seem to have any scruples about the messed-up events of the movie.  It’s definitely a far cry from The Farrelly Brothers’ “There’s Something About Mary.”  As for the conclusion of this review, I’m not really sure whether to steer you towards or away from the movie: it’s just another middling, forgettable comedy that I couldn’t feel more ambivalently about.  C / 





REVIEW: Solitary Man

9 12 2010

Michael Douglas, like most skilled actors, can deliver good performances in his sleep, but these types of actors are only exciting to watch when they try something different or really put in the work to elevate their performance.  In “Solitary Man,” it seemed to me like Douglas was sleepwalking through the entire movie.

It’s really a shame because this could have been a great role for him.  Fascinating performances often arise when actors take parts that reflect where they are in life, particularly at milestone ages.  From child to teen, from youth to adulthood, from young to middle-aged, and for Douglas, from middle-aged to the age of mortality.  The theme of confronting old age is particularly eerie to watch now given Douglas’ fight with cancer.

Yet while all the components are there, something just doesn’t add up.  I wouldn’t attribute it all to Douglas; the film’s plot is pretty weak and the self-examination severely underdeveloped.  This is such a rich topic, but the movie only brushes the surface.  Douglas’ Ben Kalmen struggles with a lot of things: his loneliness, his infidelity, his fall from grace in business, his desire to stay young, among others.

The psychological struggle is all provided by Douglas, not at all by the script.  Nowhere is there a great line for us to chew on or a particularly interesting plot development to leave us reeling.  There’s just predictable old plot gimmicks that run for 90 minutes, which hardly feels adequate for Douglas to give the character much depth.

He gets no help from an impressively cast ensemble including the likes of Susan Sarandon, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, and Mary-Louise Parker.  The writers don’t bother to give any sort of depth to these supporting actors; they might as well have just abandoned names altogether and called the characters “aging ex-wife,” “young new girlfriend,” and “beautiful daughter.”  There’s so much “Solitary Man” could have been, but not even Michael Douglas can save it from becoming an entirely forgettable snooze.  C