Film Review: Hall Pass

Hall Pass is not painfully unfunny. But it is unfunny, and offers little else to redeem itself from this fatal error. The Farrelly brothers have had some hits with their brand of gross-out humour, but Hall Pass is not one of their finer episodes.

Tired of her husband Rick checking out other women, Maggie decides to give him a hall pass; a week off from marriage where he can do whatever he wants. Rick’s best friend Fred is also able to join in the fun, when his wife Grace departs to join Maggie and her children. Relishing the prospect of a week as single men, things don’t go exactly as planned for Rick and Fred, or their wives…

Hall Pass is a shadow of the Farrelly brothers’ earlier work, relying upon tired gross-out humour to entertain. The film offers little else, and as a result will only appeal to a narrow demographic. Written by the Farrelly brothers, Pete Jones and Kevin Barnett, Hall Pass bases its narrative on stereotypes. There seems to be a general consensus that married men are hopelessly immature, ogling every pretty girl they see. Their wives meanwhile are exhausted, pretending to be asleep to avoid being intimate with their husbands. These clichés are weary, and rely upon viewers to either relate to or recognise these constricted traits.

The plot of Hall Pass may be predictable, but the narrative and pacing is a bit of a mess. Characters that feature quite heavily in the first half of the film are no where to be seen in the later half. Hall Pass features a long introduction and build up, but rushes the last part of the film. Much of the action occurs in the last twenty or so minutes, and this feels hurried given the copious amount of time spent building up to these events. The mistake in this instance appears to be trying to cram too many different incidences into the climax. If these events had been spread out earlier in Hall Pass, perhaps the film may have been more enjoyable as a result.

Hall Pass features an array of talented actors that have been quite frankly squandered. Own Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate are all good comedic performers, yet the material lets them down. As Maggie, Jenna Fischer is lacklustre, though she cannot be blamed for the poor script. Stephen Merchant is conspicuously absent for most of the film, given his third billing on Hall Pass‘ poster.

With its lame gross-out gags and syrupy ending, Hall Pass is for those who enjoy their comedies predictable and churlish. Everyone else should avoid the film.

Film Review: Cemetery Junction

After Ricky Gervais’ last co-written, co-directed and co-stared feature, The Invention of Lying, you would be forgiven for being a little skeptical about this latest offering. However, Cemetery Junction is an enjoyable picture, combining an adequate amount of laughs with a genuine emotional depth.

Freddie Taylor is the son of a factory worker, living in the dead-end town Cemetery Junction in the early 1970s. Wishing to make more of his life, Freddie thinks working for a big insurance company will help achieve his goal of leaving his old life behind. But things rarely work out as simple as this…

Christian Cooke is bright as the protagonist Freddie; his blossoming friendship with Julie (played by Felicity Jones) is a delight to watch. Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan are all believable in their roles. The star turn, however, is delivered by Emily Watson, who gives an understated yet strong performance as Mrs Kendrick.

The relationship between Freddie and his friends Bruce and Stork seems very natural. The film is well written; the dialogue and circumstances appear very believable. Gervais and Merchant have succeeded in producing a well-crafted drama with a sufficient amount of comic relief. Aesthetically, the film seems authentic with its depiction of a small British town in the 1970s; the soundtrack is bursting with hits of that decade.

Ricky Gervais has a role in Cemetery Junction, but given his reputation for playing very similar characters, it is thankfully small. Overall, the film should strike a chord with audiences all too familiar with the small-town mentality; the theme is broad enough to be identifiable where ever in the world you watch it.