Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Shallow Hal

2001, US, directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly

Rating: **.5

There's a core of innocent sweetness in all of the earlier Farrelly brothers films, even though it's not always immediately obvious, and that impulse is given free rein here, with the gross-out gags radically toned down - indeed, the final 30 minutes of the film contain few laughs of any kind - as the brothers make a surprisingly didactic point about the nature of beauty. While it's refreshing that they stay true to the film's proper logic at the conclusion, it simply takes too long to get there, while the uncertain tone, varying between gag moments and sweet sincerity, is ultimately a little wearing (on the plus side, the brothers include a variety of unusual actors in smaller parts, and treat them, for the most part, with great respect; this is no Freaks sideshow). Gwyneth Paltrow does a creditable job of conveying the confusion her character feels when confronted with Jack Black's uncritical worship, ignoring her own beauty and creating considerable quiet humour in the process, while lifestyle guru Tony Robbins has perhaps the film's funniest bit when he spoofs his own image near the beginning.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States