There comes a time when a joke is not funny anymore. It may be very amusing at first, but then it loses its appeal fast. The story of “Shallow Hal,” directed by the Farrelly brothers (“There”s Something About Mary,” “Me, Myself, & Irene”) loses its flair after about 15 minutes.
The story begins when Hal (Jack Black, of the band Tenacious D), as a little boy, receives last words of advice from his father on his deathbed. Although his father was a reverend, the man is surprisingly outspoken about women and their looks. He tells Hal to never settle for average, get routine poontang and find a classic beauty. This advice roots itself in Hal”s ideas about women. We then flash forward to about 20 years later, where Hal, an average-looking guy, is constantly pursuing women far out of his league women who also know he is after them solely for their looks.
After getting stuck in an elevator with self-help guru Tony Robbins (as himself) on his way to work, the two soon find themselves sharing personal thoughts with one another Hal does most of the talking. Robbins is surprised with how picky Hal is about women and he stresses how it is the “inner beauty” that really matters not just physical attractiveness. Even though Hal would “like her to be into culture and shit too,” Robbins puts a spell on Hal, which will from then on allow him to see only the inner strength and beauty that women have to offer. Only Hal does not realize that all of the extremely hot and sexy women he encounters from then on are really large, plain and duly unattractive to everyone else. Yes, his perception is entirely altered.
The problem with “Shallow Hal” is not just the theme “inner beauty matters more than the outside” because however clich this point is, it is sufficient to produce a fairly good comedy. “Shallow Hal” just doesn”t get you busting a gut like “There”s Something About Mary” did. There are some funny scenes don”t get me wrong but the joke is so plainly obvious, that the audience may scream “OK, I get it already!” Nothing new happens, and you may find yourself fidgeting during all of the forced dialogue.
Although Hal”s attraction to Rosemary (Gwenyth Paltrow), his newfound love, is funny initially, as he sees her as a tall knockout blonde with a perfect body when she is really a 300- pound whale to everyone else. After a few dates, the audience will wonder when something will change. It is somewhat amusing to see Rosemary down a chocolate shake in a matter of seconds and break a booth seat in the restaurant, but then the plot itself becomes even more “shallow,” and so utterly predictable that these type of incidents are overused and not funny anymore.
A redeeming quality of the film is the presence of Hal”s buddy Mauricio (Jason Alexander), whose eccentricity and impatience with Hal”s new absurd attitude makes for a great character. Paltrow also does an excellent acting job. Despite the limitations of the script, she successfully portrays the sweet and thoughtful, yet extremely unconfident Rosemary.
“Shallow Hal” has the ingredients for a good comedy, but you might wonder when the film”s creators simply lost all notions of variety and creativity. The film is simply bland and stale, and you walk out feeling relieved it finally ended in the way you knew it would all along, of course.