We all like vacations. We love getting away from things for a bit, taking stock of our lives, doing something fun and different. And, if you're married with children, like me, you can't wait to get away with your spouse and kids.
But would you want to take a vacation from them?
Rick loves Maggie, his wife. He loves his three kids. But he's not so fond of being married. Oh, there are parts of it that are pretty OK, but he's missing what he used to do before he said "I do." It's the beer binges, mainly, he figures. And the women. And the all-night parties. And the freedom. And the women.
So Rick's attention begins to wander. He slyly checks out cuties walking by. He fantasizes about nameless tropical beauties with his poker buddies. He commiserates with his best friend, Fred, about his sex life (or lack thereof). Maggie starts to notice. And the problem seems to be getting worse.
One day, after she overhears Rick and Fred talking about sex in a particularly embarrassing way, Maggie makes a drastic offer: She's giving Rick a "hall pass"—a one-week vacation from marriage. Maggie tells Rick that she's taking the kids to Cape Cod for the week, and he has permission to do whatever—and she does mean whatever—he'd like to do. Her theory: Rick longs for what he can't have. Once he can have it, he'll no longer want it. It's like when you tell a kid not to open the attic door: Naturally, the kid will obsess over that attic door for the rest of his life … or until he opens it.
Rick's friends think he's got the bestest, most understanding wife in the world. And when Fred gets a hall pass of his own, the rest of the gang decides to tag along, living vicariously through these newly freed men.
But Rick's not sold.
"Just because your wife says it's OK to cheat," he says to Fred, "is it?"
The answer, of course, is "no," and even this wayward, practically unwatchable comedy gets that. Deep down, underneath all the jokes and double entendres and exposed penises, Hall Pass is both a quirky romance and a cautionary tale.
Rick and Fred come across as clueless buffoons in their pursuit of their hall pass perks. They're better suited to being husbands and fathers than on-the-prowl single guys. And the idea that they can revive their self-image as wild, hedonistic carousers is debunked quickly, repeatedly and mercilessly.
But a week is a long time, and everyone—Rick, Fred, Maggie and Fred's wife, Grace—find opportunities to cheat. Grace and Fred both go through with it, and both regret it. Grace, after a forgettable fling, cries uncontrollably on her drive back to the Cape—so much so that she gets into an accident and breaks her nose. Fred, hearing of the wreck, speeds to her side, not heeding the psycho assailant or the police officers chasing him. "I'm not stopping until I get to Grace!" he shouts, wriggling free of the cops. It's a terrible way for Fred to show his devotion, but at least he understands how important his wife is to him.
Rick and Maggie hold true to their vows. Barely, but they do. Rick ultimately turns down the affections of their just-turned-21 babysitter and a beautiful coffee barista—even though he's spent most of the film lusting after the latter. "I gotta go home," he tells the barista, named Leigh. "I want to go home." When he gets back to Maggie, he tells her that he's never loved—or, for that matter, had sex with—anyone but her. "You've been my first, you've been my last, and you've been my everything in between," he says. And he says it before he knows that Maggie's been true to him, too.
"I was your last?" Maggie asks.
"You're my only," Rick answers. "Forever."
When Fred hears about Grace's accident, he tells Rick, "God is punishing me because I'm the worst husband in the world."
Sexual content? The whole film is nothing but sexual content. Sex saturates it at the first, at the last and everywhere in between, to borrow a few of Rick's words.
Several guys are asked how much they'd pay to secure the services of a tropical beauty for a weekend—with a guarantee their wives wouldn't find out. Some say they'd pay as much as $7,500. Rick says, "I guess the question is, what wouldn't I pay?" Maggie overhears this conversation and reports it to Grace, who says, "On the bright side, they're not cheating on us, right?" It's after that that the hall pass idea comes up. The woman who suggests it says she occasionally gives one to her husband. "All I know is our marriage is better than ever," she brags.
And that sets the stage for everything that follows. Rick falls asleep in a hot tub and when he wakes up discovers he can't move any of his muscles, necessitating rescue by two naked men. (The camera doesn't blink as they expose themselves to it.) Leigh shows her breasts to Rick (and the camera). "You have your wife for the rest of your life," she tells him. "Tonight you can have me."
While Rick does eventually reject Leigh, we can't give him high marks for it because he spends most of the film trying to seduce her. He ogles her rear, flirts with her and puppy dogs her around town. Rick and Fred, for the record, go so far as to compare their ogling techniques. Both talk about where they masturbate. And speaking of that, Fred, rejected for sex by Grace, masturbates in his car until a couple of police officers put a stop to it. Twice, manual stimulation is done in such a way that it graphically mimics oral sex. During the credits, we see a man sodomized in prison.
Beyond that, homosexual gags take the form of questions about what guys would do with other guys if the stakes were high enough, and Rick imagining his son not wanting him to be a part of his gay "civil ceremony" because he cheated on the boy's mother. Porn and breast enlargement also make the conversation list. We hear scads of jokes and uncomfortable descriptors related to oral, anal and traditional sex, as well as various body parts. Double entendres gallop amok. Fred tries to purchase a "massage" at an Oriental massage parlor.
Fred gets punched in the face by a woman's boyfriend, then gets kicked in the face by a woman he's having sex with. A very angry deejay smashes out the windows of Fred's minivan with a crowbar and fires a gun at Fred and Rick. When the dastardly duo hops in the minivan to flee, the man grabs onto the car and rides on the roof for miles, swinging his crowbar whenever he gets a chance. He later pounces on Rick when he and Fred get out of the car.
A handful of police officers tackle Fred. In a scene during the credits, one of Rick's friends imagines what would happen if he was given a hall pass—how he'd wind up killing his mistress, her boyfriend, most of her family and several witnesses.
Crude or Profane Language
The f-word is used at least 10 times. The s-word pops up nearly 15 times. God's name is misused another 15 times. Other profanities include "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard," "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑." That last word is spoken at least twice by kids under the age of 10. An obscene gesture is made.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Rick and Fred get drunk, figuring the alcohol will help release their innate charm. It does the opposite, with Fred becoming abusive and Rick falling asleep. When they and their poker buddies eat marijuana-infused brownies while golfing, this also proves to be a disaster.
Rick's underage babysitter tries to get Rick to buy her some beer. (He refuses.) Later, we see her drinking (after turning 21) at a club. Others guzzle wine, champagne, beer and mixed drinks. One of Fred's conquests is trying to stop smoking.
Other Negative Elements
A friend of Rick's defecates in a golf course sand trap. (We see him squat and try to cover the results with sand.) Fred's "girl" behaves similarly while sitting on the edge of a bathtub. (The results splatter on the shower wall.) Jokes are made about soiling oneself.
We've heard quite a bit lately about the infantilization of men in popular media. Very often—particularly in beer commercials—they come across more like immature teens: reckless, rebellious, and utterly obsessed with sex and alcohol. In these depictions, wives aren't so much lovers as they are mothers—obstacles that block a "man's" true nature.
On one level, Hall Pass is meant to be a repudiation of all that immaturity. It tells us how intrinsically hollow it is … how we should give up our childish things, embrace adulthood and love the women we've chosen to be our wives. Co-director Peter Farrelly told USA Today, "This is a hard R with a soft opening. We look at it as an old-fashioned story with conservative principles that is ultimately pro-marriage."
But Hall Pass, loud, crass, foul, vulgar and obscene, is ultimately too immature a film to commit to its own message about maturity. Whatever point Peter and his brother Bobby (who are responsible for the likes of The Heartbreak Kid, There's Something About Mary and Dumb & Dumber) want us to glean from their work, the second half of Peter's quote tells the rest of the story: "With this concept, you don't want to pull up short. As they say in the theater, if you bring a gun onstage, it must go off."