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Published on June 1st, 2008 | by simeon

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Shallow Hal

What is Beauty? This is a question that has been asked in society since the start of time, and yet is very difficult to answer. There are many factors to consider when trying answering this question. First, there is the definition of beauty that society gives. This can be of little help, as the ideal beauty has changed over time from a full-figured look of the classic era, to the athletic, skinny look of today’s standards. Further complicating the matter is personal opinions as what one person finds attractive may be unattractive to others.
In their new film “Shallow Hal” the Farrelly Brothers attempt to look at this age-old question in a humorous way. The Farrelleys are known for such films as “Dumb and Dumber”, “Kingpin”, and “Theres Something About Mary” and set new standards for shock value comedy. Who can ever forget the classic zipper scene in “Mary”?
“Hal” tells the story of a man named Hal (Jack Black), who is so shallow, that he only pursues woman of model proportions. This is not to say that Hal is a bad person, rather he is misguided. Hal lost his father when he was 9 and his preacher father in a drug riddled haze imparts as his final words to Hal that only a classic beauty will do, and that is the way to get in good with the lord.
Hal takes this advice to heart and despite having little luck with the ladies he pursues, Hal continues in his quest unabated. The fact that Hal is short, pudgy, and rather unspectacular is of little concern to him, as he takes one rejection after another in stride and continues his quest.
Shortly after being passed over for a promotion, Hal has an encounter that changes his life. During an elevator mishap, Hal is stuck for hours with self help guru Tony Robbins. Tony is fascinated by Hal’s story and works his magic to allow Hal to see only the inner person and beauty in everyone he meets.
Hal thinks he has found a new lease on life, as his luck seems to change instantly. He encounters one attractive lady after another, who are more than happy to spend time with Hal and have a great time with his company. This comes as a shock to Hal’s best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander), as he see the ladies as they really appear and is shocked that Hal is spending time with ladies that are far from attractive to Mauricio and the media standards. In fact, Mauricio is even more shallow than Hal, as he rebukes a very attractive lady that adores him as he cant stand the fact that one of her toes is slightly longer than the other.
One day, Hal meets Rosemary Shannahan (Gwyneth Paltrow), a very large lady with a heart of gold. Despite her shyness, Hal falls for her and the two soon become very close. Just when everything is perfect in Hal’s life, he learns that Rosemary is the daughter of his boss. Soon Hal is enjoying a new promotion based on having the ear of his new girlfriends father. This is causing trouble at the office, as there are some that are convinced Hal is only seeing Rosemary as he is angling to move up the company ladder.
Disgusted by the change in Hal, Mauricio seeks out Tony Robbins to undo the change to Hal leaving Hal to see things as they really are and make some decisions about himself and his life.
The film despite being a Farrelly’s film is surprisingly short on laughs as it unfolds more as a love story in parts than a comedy. It is obvious as to the outcome of many scenes, yet the characters are very earnest in their performances and carry the film with a sense of style. Yes, there are a few fat jokes, and there are a couple of off-color jokes, yet the film remains sweet and gentle and there are no characters that are villains. Each person does things in their own way, and we learn that everyone has a reason for the way they are, and do many of their actions out of love or inner fears.
While not to say that this is a great or a deep movie, it is entertaining and although some parts of the film are slow and predictable, the enthusiasm of the cast is evident and the film does have a good message of looking at things and people beyond their surface.

3 stars out of 5


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