Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button
Movie
Hal Larson (Jack Black) has not led the most successful of lives, though he is certainly better off than some. He's been passed up for promotions time and time again and his luck with women isn't the best. Along with his friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander), he loves to hit all the popular nightspots and try to score with the hottest of the hot, who are without a doubt out of their leagues. Hal also has a crush on his neighbour Jill (Susan Ward), but like most of the other girls he meets she won't have anything to do with him. Meanwhile his best friends at work suggest that maybe he's looking in all the wrong places and suggest that he look for inner beauty instead of just the exterior. Still he goes about his ways until fate intervenes in the form of an elevator ride with self-help guru Tony Robbins. As luck would have it the elevator gets stuck and Hal and Robbins get talking about life, love and relationships. After listening to Hal for the better part of the time, Robbins offers to help by allowing him to see only inner beauty and, after he performs a ritual, Hal is a changed person. Hal continues on but suddenly he finds that he can attract the most beautiful women he's ever seen and they'll actually talk to him. Before long he meets Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), who in reality weighs around 300 pounds, but to him looks like a slim and ravishing young woman. Hal becomes immediately smitten with Rosemary as he compliments her beauty at every turn, which leaves her confused and bewildered, as she knows deep in her heart that she is anything but an object of perfection. Eventually he wears her down and the two begin to date. At their second official date Hal learns that her father is Steve Shanahan, who just happens to be his owner of the company he works for. One day after meeting her father Hal's stock in the company begins to rise and he is promoted to the boss’s right hand man. Just as things would seem to be going perfectly, Mauricio, who sees Rosemary as the rest of the world does, becomes alarmed with Hal's behaviour and begins to seek out Tony Robbins in the hope that he will right the wrong he's done and return Hal to his shallow state. When Mauricio succeeds, Hal is faced with a great dilemma. Does he continue seeing Rosemary because he fell in love with her as a person, or will his previous shallow ways cause him to cast her aside?

Shallow Hal
Shallow Hal is the latest film from directors Peter and Bobby Farrely, better known as the guys who brought you Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene. Their previous efforts have all focused on juvenile and gross-out humour, and while this film contains those same elements it's also a departure for the Rhode Island-based brothers, who for the first time are trying to make a film one can take seriously. Simply put, a film with a message. The message being that looks are not the be all and end all of a person, and that a person's true beauty comes from within. Bobby and Peter do have some problems getting that message across, as their more comedic sides shine through at almost every turn. The first mistake they make is to try and combine some pretty outrageous (though tame by their standard) jokes into what would play better as a simple romantic comedy. The two very different types of scenes don't seem to gel together very well. One scene will have Paltrow's character falling flat on her face or showing off gigantic panties, while the next is supposed to be a heartfelt moment that explores the issues that overweight people find themselves dealing with on a day to day basis. What might be the most surprising aspect of the film is that it's not chocked full of non-stop laughs like their earlier films. I'm not the sort of person who requires a comedy to be a laugh out loud riot the entire time, but the gags are spaced a bit too far apart in this film. That's not to say that there isn't some great comedic material present, because there is.

Another problem the film runs into is that it is fifteen to twenty minutes too long. The Farrely Brothers tend to bring their films in around the two hour mark, which for a comedy is usually a bit on the long side, especially when you consider that most comedies are getting shorter and shorter by the month and now run anywhere from eighty to a hundred minutes.

If the Farrely Brothers know anything about making a comedy, it's that casting the right group of people is key. Looking at past productions, they've worked with Jim Carrey (twice), Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, Rene Zellwegger and Jeff Daniels, just to name a few. For Shallow Hal they've assembled an excellent cast which is lead by the extremely funny Jack Black, leader of rock/comedy act Tenacious D and the man who whole stole every scene in High Fidelity. Black, who a few years back was relatively unknown, has burst on to the scene with his over the top antics which are toned down a bit for Shallow Hal. This is not the zany Black we are used to, but he shows a progression as an actor in this more subdued and laid back role. His portrayal of Hal is right on the money, as we really believe in the arc the character goes through. It's believable and he seems almost real. This wouldn't have been the case if Black was going out of control and yelling throughout the film like he usually does. There are moments when the line between Jack the actor and Hal the character is blurred, but it doesn't come as a major distraction. Huge amounts of praise should also be lavished on Gwyneth Paltrow, who broke out of her usual period piece/romantic comedy roles to take on the more physical comedy-based role of Rosemary. Paltrow brings a level of class unseen in prior Farrely Brothers films and becomes one of the more talented actresses ever to entrust herself to the directing duo. She was also faced with the more complex dual role of Rosemary, who in some scenes had to appear to be the spitting image of perfection, while in others appear in a fat suit to appear over 300 pounds. Paltrow, who is a natural beauty, looks the best I've ever seen her look the way Hal sees her while appearing the opposite and almost unrecognisable when we see her as Rosemary how she truly is. She adds emotional depth to the character and we really begin to see that she's a great person on the inside and that looks aren't all that matters. Surrounding the lead actors are an excellent supporting cast that, with the exception of Jason Alexander, all turn in decent performances. Alexander's character is a more neurotic and extreme version of his Seinfeld persona and really gets on one's nerves quickly with his inconsiderate and often mean- spirited jokes. It wouldn't be a Farrely Brothers movie without some of their friends appearing on-screen and this time they bring friend Rene Kirby, a disabled actor whose character is played for rather cruel laughs. Lastly a film about a guy who's attracted to perfect ten's would not be complete with out some gorgeous girls, and Susan Ward (The In Crowd) and Brooke Burns (NBC's Dog Eat Dog and Baywatch) as well as Paltrow have that area more than covered. Astute Tenacious D fans will also recognize Kyle Gass who has a small role as one of Hal's co-workers.

Shallow Hal
Shallow Hal marks what some may see as the maturing of the Farrely Brothers as they craft a film that covers more than just immature and gross-out humour. Alongside writer Sean Moynihan they create a sweet and occasionally touching film that, although it takes a few wrong steps along the way, is generally an acceptable motion picture. There are points in the film where it's unsure exactly which direction it wants to take, the more slapstick comedy approach or the romantic heart-touching moral of the story approach. The mixture of these two different directions may not always come together perfectly, but the filmmakers are treading new ground and to a certain extent it works fine. The film isn't an all out laugh attack though the performances more than make up for the lower amount of laughs. It's not the Farrely Brother's best motion picture but it shows that they are indeed growing as filmmakers and that is never a bad thing. It'll be interesting to see what their next film is and if it continues in this direction or reverts back to the approach that made their previous work so universally popular.

Video
20th Century Fox bestows Shallow Hal with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer recreating the original theatrical presentation. Like most comedies "Hal" is not the most pleasing visual film I've seen in the past year. It takes a simple approach allowing the sight gags to be easily seen with minimal distraction. As far as recent Fox presentations go this one comes off as a minor disappointment when compared to some of their more recent day and date releases to DVD, which include the stellar transfer on Behind Enemy Lines. It's not so much that this transfer looks bad; it's more like there are a few more negative aspects than I've come to aspect from the studio. The problems begin with an inconsistent level of sharpness and detail, which fluctuates constantly throughout the film. Although the majority of the film was fairly sharp, a number of scenes were plagued by an almost unusually soft appearance that ultimately affected my enjoyment of the film. I find this inconsistency interesting, because when I saw the film theatrically in at least two different theatres the prints were razor sharp throughout. Even the theatre I worked at for a short time, which I felt had poor presentation overall, looked fine. The rest of the problems were pretty minor and deal more with the DVD than the print used. Edge enhancement rears it's ugly on a number of occasions as does shimmering on a couple brick buildings. The transfer does right by the colour scheme, which is made up of a number of rich and vibrant hues including a lovely pink the likes of which I haven't before seen captured on film. Flesh tones appear accurate and the disc does feature a strong black level. Despite a couple of problems Fox still offers an above average transfer for this DVD though it's certainly not their best work.

Audio
Fox brings Shallow Hal to DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Since the film is a comedy it comes as no surprise that the track suffers from "comedy audio syndrome" which means the soundtrack remains firmly anchored in the front three channels without utilizing the rear speakers. This is the case with "Hal" as I detected no real noticeable ambience from the rear of the sound stage. There may indeed be sound effects or noise placed in the back but the mix never calls attention to them long enough to make any real judgement. As is the case with many comedies there are only really two aspects to factor in; music and dialogue, both of which are presented nicely on this DVD. Sure the music could have been a tad louder and the dialogue could have been kicked up a few notches as well but both are still well balanced and easily heard throughout. All in all this is a fairly standard comedy soundtrack that doesn't really have any faults nor does it have any real high points. It doesn't distract the viewer from the film nor does it offer a full on whiz-bang type experience.

Shallow Hal
Extras
20th Century Fox has not been shallow in terms of extra features, including everything from an audio commentary to deleted scenes and a handful of featurettes as well as some promotional material.

The deleted scenes section of the disc offers eleven unseen segments from the film including some material that appeared in the film's theatrical trailer. These eleven scenes are presented with your choice of film audio, or commentary by the Farrely Brothers. Most of these scenes are nothing more than extended or alternate takes but occasionally there is some new material. The scenes are hit and miss in terms of quality but there are a couple of good Jack Black moments that should have remained in the film. Others seemed unnecessary as they didn't really advance the story and Bobby and Peter made the right choice in having them end up on the cutting room floor. I switched on the commentary track on a few just to get a reading on their discussion and while the brothers do give reasonable explanations for their deletion, they still insist on pointing out all their friends in each shot.  

Featurettes and more featurettes make up the rest of the supplemental features on this disc. In total there are four featurettes, two of which look at specialized aspects of the film and two that cover the film in general. The longer of the four featurettes are an HBO Special hosted by Brooke Burns and Comedy Central's "Reel Comedy".

Brooke Burns hosts the first one which takes an interesting approach to the usual electronic press kit material in that Burns hits the streets of Santa Monica, California and interviews people on what it's like to be shallow, what's the shallowest thing they've ever done and other similar questions. This footage is intercut with clips from the film to pad out the nearly fifteen-minute program. I'm not really sure what the purpose or objective of this featurette was, other then to sell the film. Ex-Baywatch babe Burns comes across as amazingly ditzy and annoying as she tries to act shallow while she gets fluff answers to serious questions from a seemingly random group of people.

"Reel Comedy" is this disc's version of the studio fluff piece that would air prior to the film's theatrical release in order to get people who were on the fence interested in seeing the movie. I think by this point anyone expecting to learn any actual information about the making of the film would know not to expect much from these types of featurettes, and this disc certainly doesn't change that. There's no real behind the scenes footage to speak of and the majority of the program focuses on showing clip after clip from the film. In addition to the film clips this program contains interviews with the majority of the principal talent involved in Shallow Hal, including the usually outrageous Jack Black. Black seems a bit subdued in his interview, but don't mistake his energy level for being a symbol of his comedic skills as he offers a number of hilarious jokes throughout his discussion. The remainder of the interview participants including Anthony Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow and the Farrely Brothers are more general and straightforward in terms of their questions and answers though they all seem to lavish a lot of praise on Jack Black, talking about how much they enjoyed working with him. It's worth watching for the Jack Black segments but it's probably best to skip through the rest.

Into the Deep End with Shallow Hal is a three-minute featurette that deals with the now infamous "splash shot" gag, which was one of the funnier sequences in the film. Sadly a great amount of this joke was given away in the film's marketing materials so it doesn't come as a surprise in the film. This short featurette takes away all the guesswork as we learn how stunt coordinator Martin Grace rigged up two water cannons to achieve that gigantic splash. Interview footage with Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow and her double Ivy Snitzer round out the piece.

Next up in the continuing and seemingly endless amount of featurettes is Seeing Through The Layers Of Shallow Hal, which focuses on the makeup and costuming aspects of the film. Makeup artist Tony Gardner along with directors Bobby and Peter Farrely and producer Bradley Thomas discuss the thought process behind the look of Gwyneth Paltrow's Rosemary. This nearly ten minute featurette contains a mixture of interview and behind the scenes test footage of various makeup designs as well as a few clips from the film. Some of the test footage is interesting but as a whole there really isn't all that much of interest here.

The music video for "Wall in Your Heart" by country sensation Shelby Lynne is included at 1.33:1 and with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.

An audio commentary with Peter and Bobby Farrely is also included on this disc. If the optional commentary on the deleted scenes is any indicator then this track will offer more of the same where the brothers point out their friends and family who made cameos in the film.

Fox rounds out the disc with the theatrical trailers for Shallow Hal, Minority Report (Version A), Unfaithful, The Banger Sisters and if that's not enough for you there's a promo spot for the soundtrack and other Farrely Brothers movies.

Shallow Hal
Overall
Shallow Hal is a different sort of Farrely Brothers movie and one that may not be liked by their legion of fans. It's not a bad film so much as it's just not what people have come to expect from the brothers. It has strong performances and a number of touching and endearing moments but suffers from being about ten to fifteen minutes too long and a lack of gut splitting jokes. Fox's DVD on the other hand offers good audio/video quality as well as a fair number of moderately interesting bonus features. Fans of the film will no doubt enjoy this DVD edition though I'd recommend checking out the film as a rental first if you haven't already seen it. A moderate recommendation on Shallow Hal.


Links: