Shallow Hal

Overweight people as imagined by the Farrelly brothers (Bobby and Peter) are not an appealing idea. Sure it should be funny, but it is also bound to be highly offensive, as is their other material. Shallow Hal is their attempt to soften their image. They claim that it does not make fun of fat people, instead it extols the virtues of inner beauty. To a degree, this is true, but Shallow Hal still has many of the typical crude elements common in their other films. The gimmick here is that protagonist Hal Larson (Jack Black, Saving Silverman, High Fidelity) is a shallow loser male obsessed with finding hot chicks. Tony Robbins (playing himself) hypnotizes Hal so that when he sees women, he sees their inner beauty reflected on the outside. So gorgeous women may appear ugly, while ugly women look stunning to him.

This baffles his friend Mauricio Wilson (Jason Alexander, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle). Mauricio thinks the same way Hal used to, so he sees Hal going gaga over fat, ugly women, and this drives him wild. Hal meets Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Anniversary Party), a striking (and thin) blond, and begins dating her. The fact that she reciprocates his feelings, and is funny and not afraid to eat fascinates him. Rosemary doesn't understand why Hal thinks she's thin and gets sick of his jokes, but still stays with him because he is kind and is showering her with attention. Rosemary is a great woman, and Hal sees her for who she is, not what she looks like. Things go awry thanks to Mauricio, who convinces Robbins to change things back to normal for Hal, who subsequently ignores Rosemary. Since this is a touchy-feely movie, things turn out good in the end in a fairly predictable manner.

Regardless of what the Farrelly's (Osmosis Jones, Me, Myself, and Irene) and writer Sean Moynihan claim, this movie makes fun of the obese. Sure, it is sort of funny in a crude way, but never funny enough. Yes, Hal sees the 'inner' versions of Rosemary and all the women around him, but this does not apply to everybody. Only to fantastically beautiful women or extremely ugly women. His neighbor Jill (Susan Ward, The In Crowd, Poison Ivy: The New Seduction), who he initially lusted after, is gorgeous but equally shallow, and she looks no different. The worst case in point is Mauricio, whose only purpose is to demean women. He sees what Hal cannot, the outward appearance, and the script provides him every opportunity to make fat jokes. At one point, he even sees the 'inner' versions of some men, although this wasn't part of Robbins' deal. If it were, wouldn't Mauricio look even worse? Shallow Hal applies Hal's talent so inconsistently that trying to keep track of what Hal can and cannot do becomes distracting.

Along these lines, the Alexander character is extremely annoying. His purpose is to illuminate what the audience cannot see, but when it consists only of obnoxiousness, it wears thin quickly. Paltrow is a good sport, but her role does not have her doing much. She breaks some chairs, eats lots of food, and acts really nice. Black is somewhere between his two usual extremes of really funny or terribly annoying. Hal is genuinely a good guy, but very superficial. Hal's constant attempts to woo women also wear thin. Black gives a good effort at appearing simplistic and sincere, but the script makes his character too dumb for people to care. The best thing one can say about Shallow Hal is that it was not as bad as it could have been. Oddly enough, the most offensive element of this movie is its inaccurate portrayal of the Peace Corps by mocking its members and its entrance requirements.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content.

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