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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Hall Pass (Blu-ray)
Hall Pass (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // June 14, 2011 // Region Free
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 11, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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They knew what they were giving up when they signed up for the whole marriage thing, and fifteen or twenty years later, they've been good
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boys: Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) look but don't touch. It's just that they look and leer a lot, and the two of 'em can't help but daydream about how much damage they'd be doing without the ol' balls-and-chains weighing them down. "Some strange" is what I think the kids are calling it these days. Their wives Shannon and Rutherford...wait, I mean Maggie and Grace (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) are kinda fed up with it. It's juvenile, it's disrespectful, and I guess now it's open season. Maggie and Grace want their husbands to get this whole thing out of their system, so they're handed a week-long Get Out of Jail Free card. The wives trot off to Cape Cod with the youngins, expressly telling Rick and Fred that they can do whatever they want with whoever they want for a full seven days. For the next week, they're allowed to live like they're not married: no judgement, no consequences, no nothin'. A hall pass! The boys cackle and plan and scheme and fantasize and...oh, wait. They've been out of the dating game for years and years, they don't know how pick up these foxy twentysomethings with their Twitters and their cellphones and the rock music, and middle-aged suburbanites tooling around in a minivan generally aren't pussy magnets so much. While Rick and Fred fumble around trying to bring their Porky's daydreams to life, Maggie and Grace clue in that a week-off-marriage hall pass cuts both ways. You got it: shenanigans!

So, yeah, the first fifteen or twenty minutes of Hall Pass are pretty excruciating. A lot of the comedy is lame stuff like trying to eke out a laugh from a precocious little tyke saying something about his mom's "fat ass" or clever-when-you-heard-it-in-7th-grade-but-not-so-much-now slang like "eyebanging" and "spank bank"...where there really aren't jokes there, but you're supposed to giggle 'cause some dude in front of a camera said "rub one out". I braced myself pretty quickly, thinking I was in for 111 minutes of comedic water torture. Turns out I was way off.

That's the thing about Hall Pass, though: sometimes its sense of humor sounds like a fifty-six year old uncle trying way too hard to sound hip and edgy at a
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summer BBQ, sometimes it seems as if it's waffling between being hypervulgar and mischievously tame yet settles for something forgettable in between, and then the Farrelly Brothers get distracted trying to show their critics that they can do more mature, emotional stuff too. A whole lot of that falls flat, and even the rhythm to the dialogue is so uneven that I wonder if they were kicked out of the editing suite a couple weeks early and were forced to settle for whatever they had handy. The scene where the whole hall pass concept is lobbed out sputters and stutters so badly -- has these pockets of complete silence as if the actresses were racking their brains trying to remember the next line -- that it's kind of uncomfortable to watch, even.

It's just that when one of the gags in Hall Pass connects, it's...like, I'd howl with laughter so hard and cackle so loudly that I have to rewind to catch up on the stuff I laughed through. There's a good bit of less-than-great stuff you have to wade through along the way, yeah, but I cracked up a whole hell of a lot during Hall Pass...a whole lot more than I ever would've thought after that slog of a first reel. I guess you're going to have to take it on faith since I don't want to spoil all the best stuff, but I'll just say One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Big Mouth Billy Bass, an onslaught of pickup lines I really, really need to remember, Stootfish, and all-you-can-eat breadsticks. Out of context, that means nothing to you, and for that I'm sorry, but if you do give Hall Pass a whirl, come back and give that list another look. You'll run through every last one of them and say "yes! Yes, Adam, you were right. Genius. You and the movie,
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I mean." The on-camera dick-and-fart joke quotient is lower than you might expect, but what little of that's here completely gets a laugh, and a lot of the time, it's the stuff around the dongs-'n-diarrhea that gets a laugh rather than the grossout gags themselves. There are tits too, so there's that. Oh, and Stephen Merchant, J.B. Smoove, and Richard Jenkins, stealing every single scene they're in. The Farrelly Brothers even manage to elevate jerking off in a car to something elegant and almost operatic.

Take a stroll through Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, and you'll pick up pretty quickly that critics didn't go for Hall Pass so much. Can't say I completely disagree either. There are a lot of rough patches. When making its points about fidelity and love and married-women-need-attention-too, the Farrellys get serious in a way that comes across as awkward and heavy-handed. They never really figure out how to juggle the emotional, grounded stuff with the raunch. ...and again, the hit-to-miss ratio with the gags is less than stellar. At the end of the day, that doesn't bother me that much. There are a whoooooooole lotta jokes I didn't laugh at, yeah, but when Hall Pass does connect, it's half-screaming, tears-in-my-eyes, wait-wait-I-have-to-rewind-now laughter. I remember the stuff I did laugh at more than the stuff I didn't, and I laughed a lot. Hall Pass is really, really uneven, but the best bits make all the shitty ones totally worth it. For my money, at least...? Recommended.

The worst thing about Hall Pass on Blu-ray...? High definition's really not doing Jenna Fischer any favors here. I mean, I'm not trying to sound like Mr. Blackwell or whatever his name was, but there are a couple of scenes where her makeup is just...ack, red and nightmarishly leathery. They pay people to take care of that stuff, right?

Actually, nothing about Hall Pass looks that great in HD. Maybe it's just the choice of film stock or something, but detail and clarity are way below average for a movie fresh out of theaters. There are a bunch of tighter shots that look pretty good, but other than that, it's just...I dunno, lifeless. Not bad, exactly, but just really, really lackluster. The bright, candy-colored palette is the only thing even a little bit eye-popping about this one.

Oh, but this Blu-ray disc is still a lot slicker looking than that DVD elsewhere in the package. If you want to see how the two of 'em stack up, I snapped a couple of screenshots. Pop them open to full size if you want to compare:

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Hall Pass is served up on a single layer Blu-ray disc, making room for both the theatrical and unrated versions thanks to the awe and wonder of seamless branching. Both versions of the flick have been encoded with AVC and letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The DVD in the set is in anamorphic widescreen at its original aspect ratio.

Hearing The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" in 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio...oh, it's like that guy in Warrant said: heaven isn't too far away. The audio here is standard but effective enough. Dialogue comes through cleanly and clearly, and although it's generally anchored front and center, there's a little directionality to it at times. The rear channels are understated but every once in a while splash on some immersively atmospheric color, complete with some discrete effects to sell that illusion or whatever. Surround use is pretty tame other than that, but Hall Pass remembers they're there every once in a while, particularly with a bit where a psychopath has latched himself to Rick and Fred's minivan. Bass response is solid, lobbing out plenty of punch for the music. Kinda routine for a comedy, yeah, but no real complaints.

The rest of the audio options vary depending on which version of Hall Pass you give a whirl. The theatrical version heaps on dubs and subs in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The dubbed soundtracks are Dolby Digital 5.1 (640kbps) straight across the board, and this R-rated cut is also subtitled for the deaf and hard of hearing. No dubs for the unrated version, though -- just subtitles.

Clocking in at something like six minutes in total, don't expect too much outta the extras here. I didn't know the Farrellys could not record a commentary track. Is this a first? Some kind of epochal
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event in the history of home video?
  • Deleted Scene (4 min.; HD): That's "scene", as in singular, too. It's a pretty great one, though, giving Richard Jenkins' leathery old poonhound a proper introduction rather than him just showing up. This really should've made the unrated cut.

  • Gag Reel (2 min.; HD): ...and last up on this long, long list of extras is a gag reel. It's short but a notch or two above average.

There's also a BD Live thingie, but it looks like just the standard issue gateway with nothin' for this movie in particular. Hall Pass comes packaged inside a shiny cardboard slipcover, and the second disc in the set doubles as both a DVD and a digital copy. The DVD and the DC are limited to the theatrical cut only, and the digital copy does play nice with iTunes and Windows Media-powered devices.

The Final Word
I'm looking at you, 34% Rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and you got it wrong about Hall Pass. WRONG! Okay, okay, the comedy's wildly uneven, the Farrellys twiddle their thumbs a lot longer than they should before lining up the first big laugh, the movie gets way too serious towards the end, and the gags definitely miss more than they connect. It's kinda like the Farrelly Bros. couldn't really figure out if they wanted to hammer out a hypervulgar comedy, something a little meeker and tamer to slide down Middle America's gullet, or show just how serious and mature they can be...so they chucked all of that in the blender, mashed "Purée", and out sloshed Hall Pass. There are gaping chasms of trying-way-too-hard comedic dead air and long stretches of I-don't-care-about-this, but when one of Hall Pass' haymakers would hit, I'd laugh my ass off. The lows are really low, yeah, but the highs really, really, really make up for all that. You've really gotta be willing to take the good with the bad for this one, but my vote...? Recommended.

Oh, Wait, I have Leftover Screenshots
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