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Blu-ray Reviews

Hall Pass (Enlarged Edition) Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted June 12 2011 - 03:14 PM

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Hall Pass

Directed By: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Merchant


Studio: Warner

Year: 2011

Rated: R

Film Length: 105 minutes (Theatrical) 111 minutes (Extended)

Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1


Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Release Date: June 14, 2011

The Film ***

In Hall Pass, Owen Wilson plays Rick, a faithful and devoted husband whose tendency to ogle other women has become a source of embarrassment to Maggie (Fischer) his wife of several years.  Jason Sudeikis plays Rick's best friend Fred, whose infantile sexual attitude is a source of embarrassment to his wife, Grace (Applegate), and pretty much anybody within earshot of him.  When circumstances bring these character flaws to a head, Maggie and Grace give their husbands "Hall Passes", which amount to a week off from marriage during which they can live like single men and pursue their choice of single women free of consequences.


Viewers familiar with other Farrelly Brothers films will find themselves in familiar territory as Hall Pass blends their fondness for outrageous scatological humor with a litany of embarrassing situations visited on a sympathetic lead character.  Owen Wilson proves capable as the film's relatable protagonist and generates sufficient empathy with the viewer to sell most of the make-you-wince gags revolving around his discomfort. The rest of the cast proves to be something of a mixed bag.  Sudeikis proves frequently amusing as Rick's much less sympathetic foil, but a little of his character goes a long way, and the viewer is subjected to a whole lot of him throughout the film.  Jenna Fischer, an actress I generally like, has a few scenes that come off terribly that involve her being saddled with extended pieces of expository dialog.  Richard Jenkins turns in a scene stealing performance as "Coakley" a worldly swinger savant who is called in to attempt to salvage Rick and Fred's Hall Pass when they prove to be exceptionally inept at the dating scene from which they have been absent for several years.  Stephen Merchant, Larry Joe Campbell, and J.B. Smoove offer some amusing, if a bit broad, gags as a trio of married pals attempting to vicariously enjoy Rick and Fred's freedom.  Christina Applegate somehow manages to avoid stepping in any of the acting bear traps that affected Jenna Fischer's performance, and hits just about the perfect balance between comedic and dramatic to sell her potentially unlikable character.


As with other comedies in this vein from The Farrellys, the film's success or failure hinges on the ability of the audience to maintain sympathy for the characters as they stumble through the series of outrageously inapporpriate gags concocted by the writers.  Perhaps even more-so, it also depends on the frequency with which these gags actually succeed at surprising and amusing the viewer.  In this regard, the experience of watching the film at home can be quite different than watching it in a crowded theater.  In the interest of full disclosure, I should therefore make it clear that I watched this by myself in my home theater and found the hit to miss ratio a little bit north of 50%.  My guess is that a gag I found amusing concerning explosive diarrhea may have struck me as downright hilarious in a more communal setting while a gag involving extended (pun intended) male frontal nudity would have struck me as cheap and obvious in either setting, but I may never know for sure.


In any case, I would recommend those interested in checking out the film to assemble a group of friends, possibly slightly inebriated, and watch it together for maximum impact.


The Video ***½

The 1080p high definition presentation is letterboxed to the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 and is encoded via the AVC codec.  Colors seemed a bit odd, with slightly orange skin tones for some characters (not counting two characters who are supposed to be unnaturally tan in complexion). Sharpness also seemed to vary more than I would expect from a modern production from shot to shot.  No obvious signs of digital video artifacts were present.

The Audio ***

The DTS-HD MA lossless encoding of the film's soundtrack on both the theatrical and "Enlarged Edition" is solid but not spectacular.  Starting with the mix, surround use was inconsistent with periodic scenes that seemed to open up the full three-dimensional sound field, but many more that anchor all of the sound in the front hemisphere.  The lossless encoding shines best with respect to the film's music, which, like most Farrelly Brothers films, favors montages set to entertaining and non-obvious popular music songs over the use of a traditional film score.  Dialog is surprisingly inconsistent in fidelity, but this is likely an artifact of how it was recorded rather than its mastering for home video release.  Alternate language dubs are provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish, French, and Portuguese for the theatrical version of the film only.

The Extras *½

When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following skippable promos:

  • Warner Blu-ray Promo (1:53 - DD5.1 - AVC HD)
  • WB Insider Rewards Promo (1:18 - Dolby Digital 5.1 - VC-1 HD)
  • Anti-Smoking PSA (:34 - Dolby Digital 2.0 - VC-1 SD 4:3)
Proper extras are meager, beginning with the Enlarged Edition extended cut of the film.  This extended cut runs six minutes longer than the theatrical version of the film, with almost all of the additional material appearing during the middle third of the film.  Most of the additions involve short bits that establish character details that have already been well established by other scenes in the theatrical version, and despite the addition of a few more chuckles, the general impact is to bloat the middle passage of the film.  The most significant add is a scene with Wilson & Sudeikis' characters on an on-line dating site that sets up another scene which will answer a question posed by many viewers:  Why did I see Vanessa Angel's name featured prominently in the cast scroll during the closing credits?  No material that would have been cut to secure the film's "R" rating was evident.


Deleted Scene (4:27 - Dolby Digital 2.0 - AVC HD) is actually an entire deleted sequence involving the original introduction of Richard Jenkins' character of Coakley.  More Jenkins is always better, and this is definitely worth watching as a deleted scene.  It seemed no more or less worthy of inclusion than the scenes that did get added back for the Enlarged Edition cut, but is significantly longer than any of the others.


Gag Reel (1:59 - Dolby Digital 2.0 - AVC HD) is the typical selection of bloopers and outtakes one expects from a gag reel, but the best available such clip involving a practical joke played on a cast member, appears as a "credit cookie" at the end of the actual film.


The disc is BD-Live enabled for access to the Warner Home video portal, but other than the ability to host a screening, there was no content specifically related to Hall Pass on the portal at the time of this review posting.


Finally, as with most Blu-rays of Warner theatrical new releases, this two-disc set also includes a SD DVD with Digital Copy which includes both a bare bones SD DVD presentation of the theatrical cut of the film with Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio and a choice of English SDH, French, or Spanish subtitles, and a choice of either a Windows Media or iTunes digital copy of the film for portable media devices.


Packaging

The disc is enclosed in a standard Blu-ray case with die-cut holes to reduce plastic use and an extra hub on the inner left side allowing it to accommodate the SD DVD/digital copy disc as well as the BD of the film. The only inserts are a BD-Live information sheet and a sheet with the code to unlock the iTunes or Windows Media digital copy.  The hard case is enclosed in a cardboard slipcover which reproduces the same art with additional promotional text highlighting the SD DVD & digital copy.


Summary ***

Hall Pass is a sporadically funny film from The Farrelly Brothers with their signature brand of comedy rooted in a litany of scatological embarrassments heaped upon a basically likable protagonist.  You know, kind of like The Book of Job with sex and poop jokes.  I thought it connected with a little bit more than half of its attempts to shock and amuse, but other viewers may find it more or less successful depending on taste and tolerance.  It receives a somewhat lackluster Blu-ray presentation with video marred by some odd color timing, an audio track with inconsistent (although never severely flawed) dialog quality, and meager supplements highlighted by some deleted scenes, one of which stands alone as an extra and a handful of which are incorporated into an extended cut of the film.


Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Christian Preischl

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Posted July 21 2011 - 09:51 AM

Could not get this to play properly. My Oppo BDP-93 (latest firmware) wouldn't even load this (the little Java disc symbol just kept spinning indefinitely) and my PS3 (slim model, also latest firmware) loaded it but skipped every video piece (Warner logo, trailers etc.) after playing each for 1 second. Then it jumped into the main menu but only showed the background image, not the pop-up menu itself. Anybody else run into problems with any of these players?

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted July 21 2011 - 11:52 AM

While I had no problems spinning the disc on my PS3, I wish I did. Other than a couple of laughs, a waste of time.
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#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Christian Preischl

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Posted July 21 2011 - 11:04 PM

You can have my copy if you want to. :) So, even the menus worked fine on the PS3 and everything? Guess I'll give a replacement disc a shot then. Weird anomaly, though.

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted July 22 2011 - 05:18 AM

It played flawlessly, no issues at all with any aspect of the disc.
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#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Christian Preischl

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Posted July 23 2011 - 12:51 AM

Thanks, Ron.