THERE was undeniably something about Mary back in 1998 when writer-directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly stamped Ben Stiller’s credentials as a leading man and provided a classic gross-out moment with misplaced hair gel.
Neither of the buddy comedies they made before this signature film, nor any they have made since, have combined their trademark recipe of slapstick, heart-warming romance and toilet humour with such crowd-pleasing abandon.
Their new potty-mouthed battle of the sexes, Hall Pass, takes an off-kilter premise – two wives grant their men a week’s grace from marriage to sleep with as many women as they want – as the starting point for 105 minutes of half-hearted soul-searching and vulgarity.
Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate) are sick and tired of their husbands Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) ogling other women and behaving like idiots.
So at the suggestion of their friend Dr Lucy (Joy Behar), an advocate of reactance theory – the notion that if you limit someone’s choices, they will rebel and choose what they cannot have – the women grant their spouses ‘hall passes’ for one week.
Rick and Fred hit the town with pals Gary (Stephen Merchant), Hog Head (Larry Joe Campbell) and Flats (JB Smoove) in tow, promising seven days of carnal.
Meanwhile, Maggie and Grace leave town with the children and babysitter Paige (Alexandra Daddario), and find some pleasing distractions of their own: namely college baseball coach Rick (Bruce Thomas) and big-hitting protege, Gerry (Tyler Hoechlin).
For the most part, our response to the script and to Wilson and Sudeikis is weak smiles.
We feel a twinge of hope that all of the emotional upheaval will compel the women to make appointments with a divorce lawyer.
Now that would be a happy ending.