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Shallow Hal (A Movie Review)


Starring Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Alexander, Joe Viterelli, Susan Ward, Rene Kirby, Bruce McGill, Brooke Burns, Kyle Gass, Laura Kightlinger, Nan Martin, Steve Tyler, Darius Rucker, Molly Shannon, Nikki Cox and Anthony Robbins.

Screenplay by Sean Moynihan, Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly.

Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly.

Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Pictures. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.

I didn't have too much hope for Shallow Hal. The Farrelly Brothers have the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And their films have rarely lived up to the hype... only There's Something About Mary has been any good and even that film ran out of steam long before the film ended. They seemed to be a strange choice to direct a compassionate film about the difference in between personal appearance and reality.

The new movie stars Jack Black as Hal, a chronic modelizer who is hypnotized to overlook physical looks and see a person's inner beauty. While under the spell, he falls in love with Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow) a sweet, charming but (as Black himself puts it) robust girl. Everyone else sees her as hopelessly overweight, but Black sees her as a stunner.

Shallow Hal takes quite a few large leaps of logic to make its point – assuming that all beautiful people are mean, all fat people are good and misunderstood, all homely women also have dumb laughs, all Peace Corps volunteers are ugly.

Also, for a film that is trying to get people to overlook size and looks in a person, the Farrellys set up quite a few jokes at Rosemary's expense... she breaks TWO chairs, she causes a canoe to dip precariously, she destroys the shock absorbers on a car. If the Farrelly's truly believed in their story wouldn't they have hired a true plus-size actress (say, Camryn Manheim or Kathy Najimy) to portray Rosemary, not a zero-body fat starlet like Paltrow in a fat suit?

That said, Paltrow does an incredible job of capturing the insecurity and low self-esteem of a woman who has been obese all her life. Jack Black's performance is much more one-note... in the end of the film he seems every bit as shallow as he did in the beginning, the only difference is he is willing to date a large woman. Jason Alexander is fine as Hal's best friend Mauricio, though he is essentially playing George Costanza with a weird toupee (and a totally gratuitous physical deformity.) Susan Ward is fantastically sexy as Jill, Hal's beautiful and yet caring next door neighbor – and the only attractive and still nice person in the whole film.

Reading all of the above sort of makes it seem I didn't like the movie, but I have to admit I do have some affection for the film. Shallow Hal is lot like the character of Rosemary herself; not pretty, kind of clumsy, but essentially good-hearted and rather funny. It is far from a classic, but there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. (11/01)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2001 All rights reserved. Posted November 20, 2001.


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