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Starring: Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Rating: 2 / 5
Quite a few movies have enjoyed success with some degree of off-color humor, even as critics decry the affront to one of society's select groups. In the Farrelly Brothers film Shallow Hal, obese people are the butt of a great many jokes, and, quite frankly, the film suffers for it. Maybe age has finally caught up with me, as I wonder if a teenage version of myself would be quite as offended as I was while watching this film. Stripped of this comedic material, the film shows itself to be a one-joke effort, unable to sustain momentum until its mildly redeemable conclusion. I never found myself heading for the door, but uncomfortable moments were plentiful, leaving me to smile sheepishly as Shallow Hal sunk further and further.
A young Hal is called to his father's side as the elder man's life is nearing its end. In a final moment of clarity - or, some would say, ultimate shallowness - Hal's father implores his son to ignore his heart and look lower for guidance in life. Years later, Hal (Jack Black) is a confident single who uses physical beauty as his only barometer for pursuing dates. He and good pal Mauricio (Jason Alexander) - who is unhappy with his own gorgeous girlfriend because one of her toes is too long - frequent local dance clubs, hitting on women who will not even give them the time of day. The two may have confidence in abundance, but their priorities are more than a little skewed.
Hal's life is forever changed, though, when he is trapped in an elevator with self-help guru Tony Robbins (playing himself). Seeing Hal as the shallow man that he is, Robbins decides to set about curing Hal of his evils. Through the power of suggestion, Robbins allows Hal to only see a person's inner beauty. Soon, Hal finds himself seeking out those women he would normally dismiss without a thought. As Mauricio stands by dumbfounded by his friend's actions, Hal ends up meeting Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), the boss's daughter and a woman in need of a self-confidence boost. What happens, however, when Hal realizes what has happened to him? Will true love triumph?
The Farrelly Brothers have played the "gross-out" card before, yet they are surprisingly restrained here. Save for a humorous scene involving Mauricio, the two writer-directors refrain from anything over-the-top. Unfortunately, they choose to focus on an unending string of obesity jokes, ones which left me squirming rather than laughing. Their intentions are noble, as they seek to show that physical beauty says nothing about a person's true nature, yet their methods are suspect. At the end of the day, a lot of their quips amount to little more than "Look, fat people!" Sadly, that thought is the lasting one from Shallow Hal, a film which assumes its viewers are as shallow as Hal himself.
Certification: Rated PG-13 for language.
Running Time: 113 minutes.
Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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