It’s hard to hate a Farrelly brothers comedy. The directors responsible for “Dumb & Dumber,” “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary” know how to amuse, however childishly, and their latest farce, “Hall Pass,” would like to live down to their amiable standard.
Where the movie goes wrong is in assuming that we will tolerate Rick and Fred (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, respectively), as two incompetent husbands whose professed desire to stray leads them to seek a “Pass” — a weeklong furlough from their vows of fidelity — which proves a reach exceeding their grasp.
That’s not to say their misadventures are disappointing from beginning to end. They aren’t.
But it’s hard to accept that two fools as clueless as Rick and Fred could ever be married in the first place.
And yet they are — to Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), women who are smarter than they and deserve far better.
Rick is the more appealing of their two misfit spouses. He’s a hopeless bumbler, but it’s a tribute to Wilson and the Farrellys that he comes off as sweet and well-intentioned.
Fred, on the other hand, not so much. That’s no fault of Sudeikis, the “Saturday Night Live” star who made the most of a supporting role in last year’s “Going the Distance.” The character is the problem. More than an amiable goof, he’s a wannabe cheater whose bad intentions eventually overshadow his inadequate charm.
On the plus side, Wilson and Sudeikis share a natural chemistry. Their exchanges are playful and funny, as is their interplay with co-stars including longtime Ricky Gervais creative partner Stephen Merchant, as a somewhat swishy Englishman, and the verbose J.B. Smoove (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”).
Less amusing is the movie’s dubious story line, including a disposable subplot about an enraged, possibly homicidal barista (Derek Waters, of “He’s Just Not That Into You”) and crude gags aimed for cheap laughs, including a projectile bowel movement.
That Rick and Fred are unsuccessful in their attempts to make good on the “Pass” is, frankly, more a relief than a shock.
They are not far removed, emotionally or mentally, from Lloyd and Harry, the unabashed idiots of 1994’s “Dumb & Dumber.” The difference here is that they have wives who love them and, in desperation, leave them temporarily as a way of reclaiming them.
The ladies’ plan, however ill-conceived, is successful, but why? That these couples are couples at all remains an unsolvable mystery.
Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate
Written by Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly, Kevin Barnett, Bobby Farrelly
Directed by Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Running time 1 hour, 45 minutes