There's not much surprise to the plot of Shallow Hal, and similarly,
there's no message either. It's just a short, fun film that pokes a
very sharp tongue in the cheek of political correctness by ridiculing
shallowness, much the same way that the TV show, Seinfeld, often did. And
like the TV show, what makes it appealing is the way it can depict a
terrible part of human nature in a way that can embarrass us and humor
us, all at the same time.
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Jack Black plays Hal, a typical big-city, white collar, mid-30s marketing
guy who's only attracted to gorgeous, supermodel knock-out chicks. At
his side is Hal's best friend, Mauricio, played by Jason Alexander,
who virtually revives his role as George Castanza from Seinfeld. The two
cruise the bar scene, trying to pick up girls, failing miserably every
time, but in ways that are so ridiculous and with creatively written
one-liners, that you can't help but laugh at them.
One day, while is Hal stuck in an elevator with self-help guru Anthony
Robbins (who plays himself), the two get into a discussion about Hal's
losing love life. Robbins helps Hal by hypnotizing him to see people
only as the person they really are on the inside, not how they appear on
the exterior. The thing is, Hal still doesn't get it, so most of the
movie plays on the joke that Hal is meeting what he thinks are
great-looking women, but who everyone else sees as they really appear.
(Of course, it's because all of us are gorgeous on the inside!)
He eventually meets and courts Rosemary (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), whom
he sees as a shapely, gorgeous blond, but others see as an enormously
overweight "fatty" that most wouldn't find the least bit attractive.
Ok, it was hard for me to even say that without feeling some guilt of
violating social tactfulness, and that's mostly what the movie is all
about: poking fun unapologetically at superficiality, and thumbing a big,
fat thumb-in-the-nose towards political correctness. Like walking a high
tightrope without a net below, the Farrelly Brothers take a huge risk by
pushing the envelope of offensive humor even further than their signature
movies, Dumb and Dumber, and There's Something about Mary.
Here, they dare you to laugh at a subject matter that both offends and
humiliates us, but it works partly because, in the backs of our minds,
we know we're also guilty of such prejudices.
What it may do for you will largely depend on your tolerance for
insensitivity, which you may already have figured out by now. But, that's
satire. Accordingly, I loved it, and think that any moderate-thinking
person who appreciates that any group is a legitimate target for satire,
whether it's stupid guys, or the women who love them, will also like
Shallow Hal. The jokes are well done, the script very creative,
the plot, while predictable, moves along well, and the production value
top-notch. In short, the movie was done by people who clearly know what
That's not to say it didn't have problems. Jack Black as the main
character was "adequate", but he didn't carry the film. Even the Czech
brothers made famous by Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd from Saturday
Night Live, who were equally superficial in their quest for women,
had a na´vetÚ and innocence that excused them, and would even make them
desirable to a lucky gal willing to turn them around. But, here, Jack
Black doesn't have much. And, yes, he predictably learns his lesson as
the formula says he will, but there was no other way to go. Shallow
Hal isn't trying to send a message, or make a point, or even tell
you something you don't know. Even though it'd have been nice to have
a deeper side to it, I don't fault the movie that it didn'tit didn't
try to. It's just having fun. And fun, it is.
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