here is one big fallacy in "Shallow Hal", the
new film by the Farrelly brothers, that I believe escaped the sibling filmmakers
as they were writing the script. It's this: the film purports to argue,
"it's what's inside a person that shows his/her true beauty", but the
film, about a man name Hal (Jack Black) who gets hypnotized and sees all
physically unattractive women (i.e. overweight or malformed in some way) to be
physically attractive (think supermodels). The fallacy enters the picture here:
according to the filmmaker, "real beauty" is being skinny and pretty,
i.e. co-star Gwyneth Paltrow. Do you get it? If it's "what's inside that
matters", why does the "inner beauty" version of Paltrow's
character, Rosemary, look like, well, Gwyneth Paltrow? Who says
"beauty" automatically translates as "thin"?
Aside from its errant attempt at something higher,
"Shallow Hal" is a mild comedy at best, a laughable drama at worst.
It's also the first movie by the Farrelly brothers that fails to elicit any
laugh out loud moments, which comes as something of a disappointment from the
people that brought us "Kingpin" and "There's
Something About Mary." "Shallow Hal" is worth a chuckle here and there, but there
are long stretches that just consist of Jack Black's Hal looking mystified at
the reaction of those around him toward his girlfriend Rosemary.
After being hypnotized by motivational speaker Tony Robbins
(playing himself) while the two are trapped in an elevator, Hal falls for the
very overweight Rosemary, believing she's, well, Gwyneth Paltrow. (Paltrow plays
Rosemary in and out of a fat suit depending on who's POV we're supposed to be
seeing Rosemary through.) Despite the fact that Hal is not all that attractive
himself (he's slightly overweight), he still insists on going for women who are
physically way out of his league. Robbins makes Hal think that he's dating
Gwyneth Paltrow when he's actually dating Rosie O'Donnell. Get it?
For those who haven't guessed already, the trailers for
"Shallow Hal" shows absolutely all of the funny moments that
the film has to offer. I kid you not. The bit with Paltrow leaps into the
swimming pool and drenches half of the city, and the one where Paltrow undresses
and tosses her parachute of a panty to Hal while in bed, were featured
prominently in the trailers and are, unfortunately, absolutely everything funny
the film has to offer. The rest are good for a few chuckles, and sometimes not
But "Shallow Hal" is not as bad as you would
think. Jack Black's loser of a character, and his loser of a best friend
Mauricio (Jason Alexander), are chuckle-worthy mostly because their attempts to
land supermodels without a snowball's chance in hell is just pathetic. As per
their usual want, the Farrelly brothers throw a couple of sight gags at us in
the guise of slightly off-kilter characters. There's Rosemary's father, who has
an unexplained Irish accent and sounds like a leprechaun. There's a friend of
Hal and Mauricio that is missing most of his legs, and thus has to hop around on
his hands, but still manages to be a hit with the ladies.
"Shallow Hal" ends the way you expect it to, with
the shallow Hal digging his way out of his shallowness, and finally realizing
that people are more than their weight and that you should love the person on
the inside and blah blah blah. But the film undermines its attempt at a moral PC
lesson with its sometimes mean spirited poke at overweight people for comedy's
sake. How could you be saying that fat people are just people too, and at the
same time point at them and laugh at their expense?
"Shallow Hal" falls grossly short of whatever
goals its filmmakers had intended. This is a case of a movie that works great as
a pitch ("Shallow guy gets hypnotized and sees fat women as skinny!"),
but it's a one-joke pony, and one jokes have a bad way of running out of steam
very, very quick.