Reviewed July 14th, 2002 by Brian White
I think Iíve figured out the Farrelly Brothersí formula for their movies: a premise, no matter how absurd, is established. Despite the absurdity, the viewer is drawn into the premise because traces of heart and sincerity are present. Once drawn in, the Farrellys have their way with you.
Such is the story with Shallow Hal. Jack Black plays Hal, who is overly concerned with the physical appearance of women. Hal is encouraged in his superficiality by his best friend, played by Jason Alexander. After being trapped in an elevator with motivational speaker Tony Robbins (a hilarious scene), Hal emerges a different man. He now sees people for their inner beauty, rather than their physical appearance. We see women both from Halís point of view, and from everyone elseís.
Enter Rosemary, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Hal sees her as Gwyneth Paltrow. The rest of the world sees her as an obese woman. Hal has found the woman of his dreams, and sheís completely in love with him. Now, enter the Farrelly Brothers. They give us a number of sight gags that communicate to the audience Rosemaryís true girth.
There was a lot of bad press around this movie at the time because people think itís unfair to make fun of fat women, and fat people in general. I was surprised at how not offended I was after seeing the film. I know how rude the Farrellys can be, and I was surprised at how mainstream this movie actually is. You canít avoid making fat jokes in the premise here, but the movie is quite sincere in its moral that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. Also, after several movies playing on the Beauty and the Beast premise, where a woman accepts an ugly man for his inner self, we finally have a story where a man does the same.
Having said that, I must also confess that the movie isnít as funny as I was hoping that it would be. When I heard that Jack Black was doing a Farrelly Brothers movie, I expected it to be hilarious. Perhaps they were being too cautious. While entertaining, I found the movie overly sentimental and not funny enough.
The DVD is presented in 1.85:1, anamorphic. The transfer is a little soft, but not enough to distract you in any way. The colors are good, and somewhat interesting due to the film stock used (I only know this because I watched a documentary on the disc).
I liked the audio mix on this movie. It wasnít over-the-top, like that of an action film, but music and sound effects are placed throughout the mix, and the whole affair sounds quite good.
For features, there is a screen-specific, feature length commentary from the Farrelly Brothers. Like their previous commentaries, the subject matter is more about their friends that turn up in all the shots. There is a little talk about the cast and the filmmaking, but itís mostly a roll call (and quite entertaining in places). There is an HBO promotional featurette, a Comedy Central promotional featurette, and two documentaries: one on makeup effects and one on the filming of the pool scene. You can watch a number of deleted scenes with or without commentary, and trailers and a music video are included.
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