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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Shallow Hal
Shallow Hal
Fox // PG-13 // July 2, 2002
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jason Bovberg | posted June 10, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?

Shallow Hal is a large steaming pile of hypocrisy. It wallows in cheap laughs and fat jokes and, seemingly out of guilt, tries to conjure a sweetness that will end up triggering your gag reflex. It's extremely low on real humor—you might find yourself giggling a few times, at best—and extremely high on cluelessness.

Jack Black plays Hal, a superficial ass consumed by the thought of attracting only the most beautiful of women. Because he's not the most handsome or suave fellow around, he's accustomed to rejection, but he just can't seem to lower his standards, thanks to some early-life deathbed advice from his heavily sedated father. Enter self-help guru Anthony Robbins (played smirkingly by Anthony Robbins), who uses a little casual hypnotism on our hero so that Hal sees only the inner beauty of people around him. Obliviously happy about his newfound talent, Hal lives it up among ladies of maximum density and minimum attractiveness. Much to the dismay of his sleazebag buddy Mauricio (a hideously toupee'd and aggressively irritating Jason Alexander), Hal hooks up with the gorgeous-on-the-inside-but-gargantuan-on-the-outside Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow). To Hal, Rosemary is a lovely young lass who looks exactly like, well, Gwyneth Paltrow. But to everyone else (including us), Rosemary is an obscenely overweight, sad-eyed woman obsessed with food.

Hal and Rosemary's budding relationship is played mostly for cheap laughs. Rosemary disintegrates items of furniture with her bulk, is constantly eating inhuman amounts of food, wears too-small outfits to accentuate her mammoth girth, and engages in other silly fat gags that are the dominion of 4th graders. Characters in the film even fling nasty insults at her. I'm pretty open-minded about humor that ain't politically correct, but there's a juvenile mean-spiritedness to this entire film that wears thin very quickly.

The Farrelly brothers are infamous for their bad-taste concoctions—for example, There's Something About Mary. But Shallow Hal never attains, or even aspires to, the heart of that film. They seem to want to flood your senses with gross, heartless humor, then fill your helpless brainpan with a cloying, wholly improbable romance that develops even after Hal returns to his senses. See, Hal has been suddenly transformed, seeing—without the help of Tony Robbins—his rotund love for the perfect woman she is. In the end, the Farrellys commit a deep hypocrisy: "Here's an hour and a half of us making repellent fun of fat people . . . but the message of our movie is that we love fat people!"

And what's with the inconsistency surrounding Hal's brief hypnotic state? Sometimes, he sees ugly-on-the-inside people for what they are, and yet others, like his beautiful neighbor Jill, appear the same before and after his altered-perception stint.

HOW'S IT LOOK?

Twentieth Century Fox presents Shallow Hal in a good anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical presentation. Detail is adequate, although softness intruded on the proceedings more than I would've liked. Colors seemed accurate. I noticed minor edge-enhancement halos.

HOW'S IT SOUND?

The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track seems weighted toward the front soundstage. Dialog is clear and accurate. The sound levels seem to jack upwards during songs. Surround activity is minimal.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

Chief among the extras is a somewhat interesting scene-specific Commentary by the Farrelly Brothers, in which the duo talks very informally about the production and takes every opportunity to point out friends that they've cast as performers or background actors. It's a mildly engaging track, offering up some entertaining anecdotes.

The disc contains four featurettes. The Brooke Burns-hosted HBO Special titled Being Shallow Hal is a fluffy compilation of film clips and on-the-street interviews focusing on shallowness. Some of the cast and crew are also interviewed. Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Shallow Hal is a a fluffy collection of interviews with Black, Paltrow, the brothers, and others. Seeing Through the Layers shows you how the film's lovely fat suits were perfected. A short called In at the Deep End with Shallow Hal takes a look at the elaborate pool-sequence fat joke.

You also get a selection of Deleted Scenes, which you can view with optional audio commentary from the Farrellys.

Finally, the DVD contains a Music Video for Shelby Lynne's Wall In Your Heart, a Music Promo Spot, the film's Theatrical Trailer. There are also some additional trailer for other films.

WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?

This film may look and sound pretty, but it's ugly on the inside.

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