Husbands and wives take a break from each other in the new comedy, ‘Hall Pass’

‘Hall Pass’ arrives on DVD — Cover art courtesy of Warner Home Video

Recently, there has been a spate of raunchy comedies that have pushed the envelope on how far an audience will take a laugh. The Hangover Part II, Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses and The Change-Up all bow at the altar of defecation, sexual promiscuity and profanity. For the most part, the resulting films were tired rehashes of comedic cliches (Bridesmaids being the one notable exception).

Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who used to be the kings of raunchiness, have not added much to the sub-genre with their latest effort, Hall Pass. The flick, starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as two married men in search of some extra-martial satisfaction, is mostly a bore featuring stupid jokes and one-note characters. There’s just not much here to appreciate.

Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis) are best buds who fantasize about having affairs. Their wives — Maggie (The Office’s Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) — decide on an unconventional approach to tame their animalistic hubbies. The ladies take a vacation for a week on Cape Cod, while the men stay home and are granted a hall pass to do anything and everything their hearts desire. Whatever happens during the week is permissible — just get it all out before they come home.

Rick and Fred quickly realize that their dream of dating other women is just that, a dream. Their seven days of freedom from the strictures of marriage prove to be a challenge, rather than a romp.

To be honest, the characters all start off with nice personalities and those typical suburban smiles. Rick is a likable guy who cares for his children, loves his wife and dismisses the advances of the family babysitter. Fred is a little more outgoing and verbose, but he too is a good man with a loving wife. Hence, it’s difficult to believe that these men would be interested in such a stupid idea as a “hall pass.” The whole experiment undermines their characters and makes most of the movie seem like a cheap way to attain an interesting premise.

The jokes are surprisingly dirty and sometimes even graphic. You’ll have a nice scene where Rick is trying to flirt with a cashier at the local coffee shop followed by a sequence featuring gratuitous male nudity. Hall Pass, in the comedic departments, is one of the most uneven films of the year. Its outline is that of a PG-13 couples comedy, while it still features R-rated content that just doesn’t seem to fit. The Farrellys are trying to cloak one comedy with a different comedy. The results are middling.

The only saving grace is a quite funny supporting role played by the great Richard Jenkins.

In the end, Hall Pass should have its own hall pass revoked.

By John Soltes / Publisher /
  • Hall Pass
  • 2011
  • Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
  • Written by the Farrellys, Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett
  • Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Richard Jenkins and Christina Applegate
  • Running time: 105 minutes
  • Rated R for crude and sexual humor throughout, language, some graphic nudity and drug use
  • Rating: ★★☆☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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