Shallow Hal (2001)


USA/Germany. 2001.


Directors – Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly, Screenplay – Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly & Sean Moynihan, Producers – Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Bradley Thomas & Charles B. Wessler, Photography – Russell Carpenter, Music – Ivy, Visual Effects Supervisor – Rich Thorne, Visual Effects – Pixel Magic (Supervisor – Ray McIntyre Jr), Special Effects Supervisor – Kevin Harris, Makeup Effects – Tony Gardner and Artists Asylum, Production Design – Sydney J. Bartholomew Jr. Production Company – Conundrum Entertainment/Shallow Hal Filmproduktion Gmbh


Jack Black (Hal Larson), Gwyneth Paltrow (Rosemary Shanahan), Jason Alexander (Mauricio Wilson), Tony Robbins (Himself), Joe Viterelli (Steve Shanahan), Rene Kirby (Walt), Susan Ward (Jill), Brooke Burns (Katrina), Zen Gesner (Ralph Owens), Joshua ‘Li’boy’ Shintani (Li’boy), Nan Martin (Tanya Peeler)


Hal Larson is someone who is completely shallow and only interested in dating beautiful girls, although he himself is not the best looking and is not having much luck. One day he is trapped in an elevator with motivational speaker Tony Robbins who tells Hal he will now see only the inner beauty in girls. Soon after, Hal begins to think he is having amazing success with girls. Hal’s best friend Mauricio cannot understand why Hal is now going after ugly and overweight girls. One day in the street, Hal sees the most beautiful girl Rosemary Shanahan, who turns out to be the daughter of his boss. He is completely taken with her, unable to see that she really weighs over 300 pounds.

Shallow Hal comes from the Farrelly Brothers, Bobby and Peter. The Farrelly Brothers crowned themselves kings of vulgarity cinema with the likes of Dumb and Dumber (1994), Kingpin (1996) and that indisputable Rolls-Royce among the sea of crassness There’s Something About Mary (1998). In fact, the success of There’s Something About Mary opened up a deluge of cinematic vulgarity, including the American Pie and Scary Movie films. Subsequently, the Farrelly Brothers went onto make Me Myself & Irene (2000), Osmosis Jones (2001), Stuck On You (2004), Fever Pitch (2005), The Heartbreak Kid (2007), Hall Pass (2011) and The Three Stooges (2012).

As with Osmosis Jones, which came out the same year, Shallow Hal feels like the Farrelly Brothers are starting to mellow somewhat. There is a conspicuous lack of dick, fart, sex and bodily fluid jokes – in fact, Shallow Hal is an earnest love-wins-out story that comes surprisingly free of any gleeful or malicious undertow. That said, Shallow Hal is a one gag film – premised on the single idea that Jack Black can suddenly see ugly and overweight girls as supermodel types. That’s it. It is a concept where the Farrelly Brothers tread a precious line. While the film has a big message that earnestly appeals to us to look beyond superficialities and not judge based on outward appearances and so on, all the laughs ultimately come from making fat girl jokes – sight gags about Gwyneth Paltrow dive-bombing into a pool and showering everybody, chairs constantly collapsing under her, the canoe tilting up as they go rowing, the amount of food she eats and so on.

Furthermore, the Farrellys surround the story with a freakshow of handicapped people – a man who can only walk on his hands, transsexuals, psoriasis sufferers and lots of ugly and overweight girls, even Jason Alexander revealing that he has a tail. It seems less like a plea for understanding than that the Farrelly Brothers have assembled a novelty freakshow, not unlike a John Waters film. While John Waters’ films are quite innocent and inoffensive and he has an undeniable empathy and love with the freaks he shows off, the Farrelly Brothers just want to make bad taste jokes. Here though there are precious few of the outrageous belly laughs, the sort that come out of seeing someone squirm in discomfort, that the Farrellys got out of There’s Something About Mary. It seems, having been sidetracked by making a pat moral film, the Farrelly Brothers have quelled what they do best and only produce merely a vague occasional smile.

In the peculiar trivia department, the end credits show photos of all the crewmembers alongside their names.

Shallow Hal was parodied in Date Movie (2006).

The Farrelly Brothers’ other ventures into genre material include:- the stalker black comedy There’s Something About Mary (1998) and Osmosis Jones (2001), a partly animated film about the talking germs inside a man’s body. Peter Farrelly on his own produced and directed several segments of the comedy anthology Movie 43 (2013).

(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this site’s Best of 2001 Awards).

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