Things have changed since the Farrelly Brothers smashed through boundaries and brought a new level of outrageous raunchiness to the screen with the box office smashes “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary.” First, they inspired others like Judd Apatow and Jason Segal to go even further, so they are no longer at the top of the list for shock value. And second, they got older.
So their new movie does not try for anything as outrageous as the unforgettable hair gel or zipper scenes (though there is a return to a graphic intestinal distress moment). And instead of focusing on the excruciating humiliations of dating (“There’s Something About Mary”) or honeymoons (the remake of “The Heartbreak Kid”), they have moved on to the challenges of married life, or what Zorba the Greek called “Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe.”
Rick (Owen Wilson) and his best friend Fred (“SNL’s” Jason Sudeikis) have jobs, wives, and mortgages in the suburbs of Providence. Rick, a realtor, and his wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer of “The Office”) have three children. Fred, an insurance agent, and his wife Grace (Christina Applegate) have none.
“All our wives’ dreams come true and ours don’t,” says Fred. For the men, it feels like it is all about sex. For the women, it feels more like romance. But everyone misses that feeling of being special.
The wives, frustrated and publicly humiliated by some very bad behavior by the men, give them a “hall pass,” a week off from marriage, with no restrictions. This is based on the recommendation of a friend (Joy Behar), who assures them it is “better than a slow boat to resentment.” Maggie takes her children to visit her family on Cape Cod, and Grace soon joins her, leaving the men behind to try to live out their fantasies of bedding babes non-stop like their friend Coakley (Richard Jenkins).
It turns out that they are more interested in eating themselves into a stupor at chain restaurants. And that, well, there’s no diplomatic way to say it. They just aren’t cool any more.
The more they try to be, the dorkier they become. Rick does not get a positive reaction to the pick-up lines he downloaded from the internet. When a very pretty Australian barrista tells Fred that the song she is listening to is from Snow Patrol, he thinks she is referring to the kiddie movie with Cuba Gooding, Jr. — “Snow Dogs.” When Rick tries to visit a massage parlor, it does not have a happy ending.
Meanwhile, on Cape Cod, Grace and Maggie have become friendly with a couple of nice guys who do think they are special.
The Farrelly brothers are going for situational rather than shock humor here, hitting singles rather than trying to bat one out of the park. That means there is less excruciating humiliation, but it also means less over-the-top, I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing moments. The result is oddly toned down and sit-com-ish. It’s even more oddly and disturbingly misogynistic, a throwback to early 1960’s comedies like “How to Murder Your Wife” and “Boys’ Night Out” in its portrayal of perpetually childish men constantly chastened and terrified by scary mommies with daunting sexual demands. This is particularly disappointing for film-makers whose great strength has been their capable and good-hearted female characters. Like Fred and Rick, the Farrelly brothers here are off their game.
Parents should know that this movie has extremely raunchy and explicit humor including comic and very graphic male nudity, alcohol, strong language, and adultery.