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Hall Pass, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son
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It's hard to wax philosophic about a film in which a portly guy stoned out of his gourd elects to use a golf course sand trap like so much kitty litter, so let's just state that Hall Pass, the latest yarn from those wacky Farrelly Brothers, doesn't merely alternate between scenes that are dumb and dumber. It's actually a smart picture at times, both in its dissection of marital matters and in its ability to extract solid laughs from dubious situations.

This latest bit of naughty cinema never matches the heights of Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin or the Farrellys' own There's Something About Mary, although it comes close in a few scenes. But it's certainly better than those dreadful Adam Sandler-Dennis Dugan collaborations, which allow their male characters to remain infantile with no repercussions -- in contrast, the immature guys in these other movies are allowed to grow through their trials and tribulations. At the same time, it's important not to oversell Hall Pass, which unfortunately goes on too long and runs out of steam before it comes to a close.

Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play Rick and Fred, suburban hubbies who spend all their time ogling other women and imagining all the fun they could be having were they still single. They love their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, respectively) but crave some excitement in their staid lives.

After some debate, the ladies -- who, it must be noted, are sharper than their spouses and have long figured out the rationale behind their gooberish, sex-crazed behavior -- elect to give their fellows a "hall pass," the opportunity to take a week off from marriage and do anything their suddenly single hearts (and other organs) desire. But getting back into the swingers' swing of things is harder than the men imagined, leading them to mistake Applebee's for a place to find hotties and employing pickup lines that surely have never worked in this planet's entire history ("Are you from Ireland? Cuz seeing you, I feel my penis Dublin").

Like most Farrelly flicks, Hall Pass is perfectly cast straight down the line: Wilson contributes a sensitivity that's integral to his character's confusion, Richard Jenkins scores some laughs as an unlikely chick-magnet, and look for Farrelly regular and all-around good guy Danny Greene as the flashlight-wielding cop who notices Fred's "shortcomings." Fischer and Applegate are fine as well, and it'd be nice to see them (especially Applegate) land even meatier roles that would really allow them to show off their talents.

Perhaps in an effort to compete with the industry's younger raconteurs of raunch, the Farrellys go all-out with the gross-outs, leading to mixed results (two scenes featuring bowel movements is at least one -- and probably two -- too many). This, combined with a sloppy third act as well as the whopping screen time given to an annoying minor character (a crazed barista played by Derek Waters), admittedly dilutes much of the film's impact. Still, it's memorable enough to get a passing recommendation from me.



Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son isn't like Some Like It Hot; instead, it's like every other witless sequel meant to prolong the life cycle of a flailing franchise. Like it or not, the fact remains that there's not much to like here, and it only escapes a bomb rating because it's more irritating than offensive -- like an ant crawling across a countertop rather than a roach roosting in the cereal box.

The second sequel to the 2000 box office hit Big Momma's House, this finds Martin Lawrence again cast as FBI agent Malcolm Turner, donning the wig and fat suit once more to elude some Russian mobsters. The added, uh, hilarity comes with the notion that Malcolm's stepson Trent (Brandon T. Jackson) must also disguise himself as a female -- in his case, a student named Charmaine. Together, Madea -- excuse me, Big Momma -- and Charmaine head to an all-girls arts school to uncover some evidence that will put away the criminals on their trail.

Big Momma gets romantically wooed by a hefty caretaker (Faizon Love) who's into hefty women, Charmaine ogles the young ladies as they strip down to their undies, and everyone involved dutifully collects their paychecks while hoping for better luck the next time out.