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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/13/02

Shallow Hal
2001 (2002) - 20th Century Fox

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Shallow Hal Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A-/B-

Specs and Features

113 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:06:51, at the start of chapter 20), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly), Being Shallow Hal HBO featurette, Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Shallow Hal featurette, Seeing Through the Layers featurette, In at the Deep End with Shallow Hal featurette, 11 deleted scenes (with optional Farrelly Brothers commentary), music video for Wall in Your Heart by Shelby Lynne, music promo spot, theatrical trailers (for Shallow Hal, Minority Report, Unfaithful and Banger Sisters), promo trailer for other Farrelly Brothers DVDs, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Spanish and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Hal: "I like 'em real young. Like, did you ever see Paulina in her first Sports Illustrated layout?"

Tony Robbins: "You're looking for a young Paulina-type?"

Hal: "Well, that face, but with better headlights. You know how hers have kind of dimmed lately? Heidi Klum's beams would do... and her teeth. Or, ooh, that Britney Spears girl… she's got great knockers. But she's a tad muscular. Her ass would do too, if she had a better grill. Like Michelle Pfeiffer when she did Grease 2, but she'd have to be a little smilier than Michelle. Like Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, before she got Stamos-ed."

I can safely say that I dig the Farrelly Brothers' films. Yeah, they're sophomoric, simple and gross ("Is that hair gel?"), but sometimes that kind of palette cleanser is welcomed after viewing something heavier like, oh, I don't know... The Sorrow and the Pity. The saving graces of Bobby and Pete's work are that their films are fairly well written and always have a lot of heart. But after beginning their feature film career with the hysterical Dumb and Dumber, the quality of their work seems to have consistently sloped downwards. To paraphrase Chris Elliott's character in There's Something About Mary, "Each film is better than the next." Unfortunately this trend continues with Shallow Hal.

Shallow Hal tells the tale of Hal Larson (Jack Black) and his one-dimensional love life. Hal couldn't care less if the women he lusts after are good, decent, caring people; he's all about the "package." After finding himself trapped in an elevator with famed self-help guru Tony Robbins (playing himself in an inspired cameo… a brilliant bit of casting by the Farrellys), Robbins quasi-magically alters Hal's perception of how he deems women attractive. Not fully understanding the gift Robbins gave him, Hal figures that he's now able to get any woman he desires, and quickly discovers that quite a few stellar beauties want a piece of him. In reality, the beauty he's seeing is a manifestation of the inner beauty these women possess, however you or I would see them as physically ugly or undesirable. Get it?

Hal soon meets Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), who at first catches his eye with her shapely figure and angelic face, but later sweeps him away with her charm, intelligence and sparkling sense of humor. Hal's small-minded buddy Mauricio (Jason Alexander) is flustered at Hal's taste in women as of late, and discovers a way to reverse the spell Tony Robbins cast upon him. After realizing that Rosemary actually weighs 330 lbs., Hal must figure out what's really important to him when it comes to relationships. Will he listen to his heart, or answer that old, familiar calling coming from just south of his beltline?

Shallow Hal is actually a little different than the straightforward comedic romps that the Farrellys are known for. Make no mistake, you'll find the Hal DVD nestled on the comedy racks at your local Blockbuster. That notwithstanding, it's hard for me to call this film a straight-up comedy because it's just not as consistently funny as their other flicks. But it has a much stronger romantic undertone than any of their past efforts. Even so, Hal is far from being a romance, in the traditional sense. Okay, so maybe it's a romantic comedy? I guess sort of, but describing it like that pits it against far superior films like Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and Bridget Jones's Diary.

It hit me that Shallow Hal plays out quite like a modern day fairytale. Sure, it's a bit more adult than the typical fairytale, but the story contains a protagonist that comes under a spell, struggles with an important issue and learns a great moral lesson. Sounds like the makings of a fairytale to me; it's probably the closest I have seen a mainstream comedy (read: gross outs and cheap jokes) come in a long while.

As a whole, Shallow Hal doesn't quite work. I mentioned that Hal is not as funny as past Farrelly films. I believe that this was intentional on the part of the filmmakers. The subject matter dealt with in this film is bit more heartfelt and meaningful than, say, Kingpin. The same kind of big, over-the-top scenarios would be in bad taste (even for the Farrellys), and would alienate some of its audience. But this also means that the film sacrifices laughs for a romantic subplot that stumbles and romantic leads that lack chemistry. Hal does have its bright, comedic Farrelly moments, but they're lower key this time. The film is charming and romantic, but it lacks the extra amount of emotion needed to give it a better identity. Hard-core gross out comedy fans won't laugh as much as they did at There's Something About Mary, and the romantic comedy addicts out there won't connect to this film like they do with better examples of the genre.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image on this DVD is good, but suffers from a noticeably soft picture. Darker scenes, like the nightclub sequences, look a bit muddled, with below average shadow delineation. But the video also has its positives. The bright colors typical of the Farrelly Brothers' style are all bold and nicely saturated. Compression artifacting and artificial edge enhancement is never a problem, and the source print is free of blemishes.

On the audio side of things, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is rich and spacious, sporting clear dialog and wonderfully recorded songs. Ambient effects are produced nicely, but the low end is somewhat anemic. It's a pretty typical, low-key comedy soundtrack, but the songs give it more zing than the norm.

The Shallow Hal DVD boasts a long list of extra features, but the supplements come up short of satisfying. The first feature is a commentary track with directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Just like all of the other Farrelly Brothers commentaries, a majority of the time is spent pointing out all of the pair's friends and family they included in the film. I think it's cool that the Brothers like to keep it in the family, but with all due respect, the vast majority of those listening to these tracks don't care if the woman who just walked by briefly was your fourth grade math teacher. The commentaries go something like this: "There's Joe! He mows my lawn, and we thought it would be neat to put him in the film as a truck driver. See, he's wearing a yellow hat, but the funny thing about that is that in real life, he hates the color yellow. That's funny!" Those specific words aren't spoken, but you get the idea. Every once in a while the Brothers will talk about something significant to the making of the film, but not nearly often enough.

A quartet of featurettes is next on the agenda. The first two are very similar to each other, and are pretty much promotional bits - you know, film clips, interviews, blah blah. Like other HBO and Comedy Central programs, they tend to give away too much of the film, and are better viewed afterward. The better of the two would have to be the HBO featurette, only because it's hosted by the drool-tacular Brooke Burns (who plays the girl Hal meets in the cab). Being Shallow Hal is the HBO-produced featurette running 14 minutes, and Comedy Central's Reel Comedy: Shallow Hal featurette lasts 22 minutes. The other two featurettes are shorter, but more informative. Seeing Through the Layers runs 13 minutes, and is by far the best of the bunch. This piece focuses on the process of making Gwyneth Paltrow look much, much heavier than she is in real life, and goes into detail about the body suits, make-ups and other special efforts. In at the Deep End with Shallow Hal is only 2 minutes, and briefly covers the water cannon effect used to make a waifish Paltrow make a big-girl splash in a swimming pool (you've seen this gag about a million times on the trailers and TV spots late last year).

11 deleted scenes (with optional Farrelly Brothers commentary) have also been included, and were all better left out of the film. A music video for Wall in Your Heart by Shelby Lynne, a music promo spot, theatrical trailers (for Shallow Hal, Minority Report, Unfaithful and Banger Sisters) and a promo trailer for other Farrelly Brothers films available on Fox DVDs round out the supplements.

Shallow Hal is a fairly entertaining film, and if you like the Farrelly Brothers' past work, or if you're big on romantic comedies, I'd say it's well worth a rental. Just don't expect too much from it. The DVD sports a nice enough picture and plenty of extras, even if they're lacking in real depth. Enjoy it with a hot dog or five.

Greg Suarez
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