REVIEW: Hall Pass (Bobby & Peter Farrelly, 2011)

The way "Shutter Island" feels like it could have been made by a modern Alfred Hitchcock, the first thing I note of this picture's composition is an unexpected Billy Wilder tone. I'm making lofty comparisons, I know, but it's no mere coincidence. "Hall Pass" is essentially "The Seven Year Itch" for February, 2011. Our leads (well-timed team Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) are granted seven days free from surveilled marital obligation by their wives (the hilarious pair of Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) in hopes they'll learn the hard way a lesson in love. Over the course of this week, the men - less heroes in misogyny than puppylike victims of their own misgivings - fumble through preparation for would-be hook-ups either too tired, too wasted or just too uncertain to make any real moves.

The Farrellys have attempted morality before. Just look at "Shallow Hal" (on second thought, don't). With "Hall Pass", they're touching on a very real, lingering issue within romantically committed life. Complacency battles ambition, but is our ambition really quelled by what we label "the ol' ball and chain" or are we as individuals to blame? Perhaps in this age of wilting monogamy all we need is to be reminded why we took the plunge in the first place. A moral journey in crude comedy's clothing, "Hall Pass" allows its audience - just as "The Seven Year Itch" did - to be unsure. At times the "right" and "wrong" choices aren't so clear cut from what is typically our omniscient vantage. By engaging us superficially, the Farrellys have actually created an empathetic avenue over which we stand to be reassured in our love lives.