banner image

:: Shallow Hal

Shallow Hal is a high concept film, where the story has been so obviously constructed to suit the concept, that usually reliable actors are left floundering. Jack Black, the funny guy from High Fidelity and Jesus’ Son, is Hal, a man who has impossibly high physical standards for women that he will date, whilst not applying those same standards to his own pudgier and balding self. His best friend is Mauricio, Jason Alexander playing a slightly lower brow version of George Costanza. A contrived encounter in a stalled elevator with Anthony Robbins results in Hal being only able to see inner beauty in women, therefore all fat and ugly women appear truly beautiful, as by the film’s logic, all ugly women have been forced to develop a personality and work for some sort of charity, and beautiful women appear haggard and ugly, like their under developed personalities. This seems conveniently not to affect Jack’s gorgeous neighbour, though she dumps him early on in the film.

The main attraction for most people in the audience however, is sure to be the sight of Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit. Paltrow plays Rosemary, the impossibly sweet and obscenely obese daughter of Hal’s boss. (Why they couldn’t meet through work instead of a silly, contrived encounter in a clothing shop is beyond me). Hal sees her as the gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow, whilst others see only the exterior. And it is Gwyneth who provides the most laughs and carries the bulk of this film.

Striving to pass on a message, the Farrelly brothers have made their least funny film so far. The genuinely funny jokes are few and far between whilst the rest of the film plods on so predictably that I’m sure most people could plot it out after the first twenty minutes. Jack Black, though hilarious in his previous supporting roles, is not a leading man, and Joe Viterelli, who plays Rosemary’s father and is usually cast as an Italian gangster in films like Analyse This and Mickey Blue Eyes is lumbered with an unexplained and ridiculous Irish accent.

Those expecting the usual Farrelly brothers gross out humour will be disappointed. Aside from one bowel movement joke, the humour remains pretty tame. The feel good ending, though it is the only one that they could get away with feels like a nod to political correctness rather than a true reflection of the world of the film. This is definitely one that can wait for video.

Screening on general release