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Shallow Hal

Can the Farrelly Brothers Keep Their Streak Alive?

An axiom that can sometimes be applied to movies is that the more times you see a trailer for a new movie on television, the harder a studio is trying to get you to see a movie that may not be able to stand on word-of-mouth publicity. Shallow Hal, the newest Farrelly Brothers joint, hasn't exactly been flying under the radar screen. Instead, it's been plastered on everything from the World Series to MUNI buses. Perhaps this is because the latest project from the team that brought us Dumb and Dumber, Me Myself, and Irene, and There's Something About Mary isn't as brilliant a comedy as those other titles.

Shallow Hal begins with a young Hal receiving some deathbed advice from his sedated clergyman dad. The gist of the advice is "only chase hot chicks", and moments later, when we meet present-day Hal (Jack Black), we can see that he has been following his father's parting words to a tee. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes evident that Hal is leading a very trite existence. His terribly shallow buddy Mauricio (a Members Only and bad toupee-wearing Jason Alexander) isn't helping things, either.

One day Hal finds himself stuck in an elevator with self-help guru Tony Robbins, played by himself. In the course of a few hours inside the elevator, Robbins diagnoses Hal as lacking confidence and not being able to see past beauty of the skin-deep variety. Robbins uses some sort of new-age sorcery to allow Hal to see the true inner beauty of the people around him. Insert the big-boned Rosemary Shannon, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who turns in the finest performance of the film. She's truly a beautiful, kind person, and as such, in Hal's eyes, she's the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow with no self-confidence. To the rest of the world, however, she's an enormous fat lady.

Hal falls in love with Rosemary, who also happens to be the only daughter of the billionaire owner of the company for which Hal works. As his relationship with Rosemary blossoms, so too does his success at work. Everything seems to be going fine for Hal, but the whole thing bothers Mauricio, who cannot believe the fact that Hal has been smitten by a fat lady. Sensing trickery, Mauricio tracks down Robbins and coaxes him into giving up the code words that will end the spell over Hal. Suddenly Hal can now see the outer beauty of everyone again, and that's trouble for his relationship with the corpulent Rosemary.

No one will accuse Shallow Hal of having too tight of a plot. It seems to be trying to do too much. At times it's potty humor, at times it's feel-good cheese, and at times it is trying to get the audience to ponder its own ideas of what beauty is. And although there are some funny one liners and a handful of tricks and twists that could only have been conceived of by Hollywood's most infamous off-color directing team, this one is much less of an achievement than the rest of their canon. Don't get me wrong; I laughed hard several times, and so did the rest of the audience. It's just that there's a reason this film has been over-promoted as of late. Twentieth Century Fox wants to pack as many theaters as it can before you can tell your friends not to expect another Farrelly Brothers masterpiece.


Shallow Hal
Rated PG-13
1 hour 54 minutes

Jack Black
Gwyneth Paltrow
Jason Alexander
Garry Shandling
Susan Ward