DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Comedy at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black, Jason Alexander, Anthony Robbins, Joe Viterelli, Susan Ward
Sean Moynihan & Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly

The Biggest Love Story Ever Told.
Box Office:
Budget $40 million.
Opening weekend $22.518 million on 2770 screens.
Domestic gross $70.836 million.
Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
English; Closed-captioned

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 7/2/2002

• Audio Commentary With Peter and Bobby Farrelly
• Deleted Scenes With or Without Director Commentary
• HBO Special
• “Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy”
• “Seeing Through the Layers” Featurette
• “In At the Deep End, With Shallow Hall” Featurette
• Shelby Lynne “Wall In Your Heart” Music Video
• Music Promo Spot
• Theatrical Trailers

Music soundtrack

Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Shallow Hal (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Have the Farrelly brothers started to mellow? The boys popularized the whole “gross-out comedy” genre with hits like 1994’s Dumb and Dumber and 1998’s There’s Something About Mary, but clearly the bloom is off the rose. That field peaked a few years back after the success of Mary and other flicks like 1999’s American Pie, but audiences seem less and less interested in those kinds of films. Imitators like 2000’s Saving Silverman flopped, and even the Farrellys’ own Me, Myself and Irene failed to gain a following.

So it seemed like the time for the Farrellys to reassess their comedic style to a certain degree, and the result was 2001’s Shallow Hal. Largely gone are the sicko gags that made their prior films stand out from the crowd, as the Farrellys try to offer a little more heart and a message this time. Does it work? Not really, as Hal comes across as a surprisingly dull and bland affair.

Hal follows our titular protagonist, Hal Larson (Jack Black). At the start of the film, we meet him as a nine-year-old who chats with his dying father (Bruce McGill). The old man’s hopped up on morphine and uses his last words to tell Hal to never settle for less than the hottest of hot women.

We then flash forward to 30-something Hal, an exceedingly shallow man who always tries to get with women who are way out of his league. Along with equally superficial friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander), the pair act like God’s gift to women and seem to fail with them spectacularly.

After Hal fails to get a promotion at work that he expected, he gets stuck in a broken elevator with self-help guru Tony Robbins (as himself). The mentor works his mojo on Hal, and the latter now sees only a woman’s inner beauty; to Hal, he perceives faces and bodies based on their souls, not their physical merits.

This leads to a series of scenes in which Hal thinks he works wonders with ultra-hotties; he doesn’t know that the general public perceives the women as skanks. Hal seems to meet the woman of his dreams when he encounters Rosemary Shanahan (Gwyneth Paltrow); she’s gorgeous, smart and funny. Hal doesn’t realize that the apparently slim and sexy babe actually weighs upwards of 300 pounds.

Much of the film revolves around a) fat jokes, and b) the discrepancy between Hal’s perception and that of others. The relationship between Hal and Rosemary intensifies, and it turns out that Hal’s boss is also Rosemary’s father. Hal impresses Mr. Shanahan (Joe Viterelli) during dinner and starts to work directly for him.

All goes well for Hal and Rosemary until Mauricio gets through to Robbins and finds the way to break Hal’s spell. However, Mauricio quickly rues this decision, as he realizes that Hal felt very happy in his state, so the remainder of the film goes over Hal’s attempts to decide if he can deal with Rosemary’s obesity.

Shallow Hal wants to have its cake and eat it, too. On one hand, it delights in moderately crass jokes about ugly women. Actually, the Farrellys display greater restraint than one might expect. We don’t see Rosemary on the can, and the movie contains almost no gags about bodily functions.

However, we see lots of physical jokes about Rosemary’s weight. The Farrellys go to that well far too many times, especially when it comes to the destruction of furniture; the movie includes a bunch of gags in which chairs and the like collapse beneath Rosemary’s poundage. The material seems less mean-spirited than I might expect, but it seems hypocritical given the Farrellys’ message.

Indeed, the concept that one should pay attention to a person’s heart, not their looks, gets beaten into our heads repeatedly throughout Hal. One of the film’s greatest flaws stems from its running time. Although 113 minutes isn’t excessively long, the story doesn’t sustain the material. Hal includes maybe an hour’s worth of content, which means we see the same topics repeated ad nauseum. How many gags in which Hal doesn’t understand others’ perceptions do we need? Far fewer than we find, for certain.

If the material seemed funnier, that’d make the length more acceptable, but Hal actually appears quite flat. It occasionally provokes a laugh or two, but very few occur throughout the film. While I never cared for the gross-out tactics of flicks like Mary, at least they engendered a response. Hal, on the other hand, comes across as relentlessly blah; it rarely threatens to snap to life.

In regard to the cast, we find a mixed bag. On one hand, Paltrow does quite well as Rosemary. She manages to convey the lack of self-esteem one would expect from a woman of Rosemary’s weight, and Paltrow makes the character surprisingly rich and human.

Black, however, seems miscast. On the surface, he appears appropriate for this kind of superficial personality, but I think Black lacks the magnetism to carry a film. He works best as a supporting character such as in High Fidelity; he doesn’t seem to be leading man material, and not because he’s not a good-looking guy. Instead, he can’t convey the depth and nuance necessary for such a prominent part, and Black comes across as surprisingly bland and lifeless.

Both comedic and emotional moments largely fail to succeed. Actually, I will admit that one scene manages to become surprisingly touching. After his spell breaks, Hal meets with a young burn victim he previously saw as cute; he didn’t perceive her scars. In that one segment, Black actually displays real humanity and depth, and the piece really works.

Unfortunately, that scene seems isolated, and the film fails to provide much interesting material. The movie lacks the broadly offensive qualities of many other Farrelly releases, though I think it comes across as hypocritical since it wants to mock fat people and embrace them at the same time. Nonetheless, the film’s greatest flaw stems from its generally dull presence, as it rarely becomes entertaining or lively. Gwyneth Paltrow offers a good performance, but otherwise this is a very lackluster and forgettable flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B / Bonus B+

Shallow Hal appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though generally positive, the picture showed a moderate level of concerns that rendered it a little problematic at times.

Sharpness seemed somewhat erratic. Most of the film appeared reasonably distinct and well defined, but some mild softness interfered on occasion. However, those concerns appeared modest, as the majority of Hal came across as acceptably crisp. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no issues, but I did notice some light edge enhancement on a few occasions. Print flaws manifested themselves in the form of a little grit and a few speckles. Most of those defects popped up fairly early in the film, but I still saw intermittent examples throughout the whole flick.

Colors usually came across as acceptably clear and accurate, but they occasionally appeared somewhat muddy. Interiors particularly seemed a bit flat and murky; exterior shots displayed stronger and more intense hues. The colors generally worked well, but they did show some drabness at times. Black levels appeared reasonably dense and distinct, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy without excessive opacity. Ultimately, Shallow Hal always remained watchable and it seemed quite attractive at times, but it remained fairly bland for such a recent film.

I felt the same about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Shallow Hal. The film offered a mix typical of comedies, as the soundfield remained largely oriented toward the front speakers. That domain showed very solid stereo presence for music, and it also offered some modest sense of atmosphere. Elements blended together reasonably well, though the film rarely offered a very involving setting. Surround usage usually tended toward general reinforcement of the music and effects. A few segments displayed greater activity - like the big splash when Rosemary cannonballed into the pool - but the surrounds mainly remained fairly passive.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech appeared natural and warm, with no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects came across as distinct and accurate, and they displayed adequate low-end response when appropriate, such as during the pool scene I mentioned earlier. Music also demonstrated good dynamics and fidelity. The score of songs showed bright highs and fairly rich bass, and the track seemed to replicate the source material well. While you’ll never use Shallow Hal to show off your system, the audio seemed adequate for the subject matter.

This DVD release of Shallow Hal packs a fairly long roster of extras. First up we get an audio commentary from directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Both were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. I need to stake a claim to the term “Farrelly Syndrome”. Whereas someone with Tourette’s Syndrome can’t control their tics and vocal urges, someone with Farrelly Syndrome can’t stop themselves from relentlessly relating the names of everyone they see on the movie screen.

Others do this as well, but obviously the Farrelly boys themselves mastered this tendency, and it again mars this track. Apparently the Farrellys pack everyone they’ve ever met into their movies, which means their commentaries often consist of simple naming; they just say, “Hey, that’s Joe Schmoe - he went to my college” or whatever. Because of that, any large group scene suffers terribly; expect little real information to appear during those sequences.

When we see a more limited roster of actors, however, the commentary becomes more interesting. They’ll discuss some minor but reasonably interesting elements of the production, and they can be somewhat funny at times, such as when they chat about the possibility that Jack Black has hair plugs. Overall, the commentary has enough decent information to merit a listen from fans of the film, but it likely won’t seem engaging for most folks, mainly due to the dull recitation of cast credits. Oh, and someone needs to tell the Farrellys that the residents of Holland are known as the “Dutch”, not the “Hollish”.

Two cable programs appear on the DVD. Hosted by actress Brooke Burns, the HBO Special runs 14 minutes and 30 seconds and provides fairly standard fare. It consists mainly of movie clips, a few shots from the set, and interview snippets from Peter and Bobby Farrelly, producer Bradley Thomas, makeup effects designer Tony Gardner, and actors Black, Paltrow, and Jason Alexander. Burns also chats with people on the street, as they discuss their own shallow moments.

The latter seem moderately engaging, and the program actually offers a little more than depth than usual for this kind of show. The interviews with participants don’t reveal much information, but we see some good footage of the makeup effects, and Gardner adds some nice comments. Overall, the show seems typically fluffy, but it offers enough actual information to merit a viewing.

The second program appears less compelling. Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy lasts 22 minutes and 55 seconds and again includes movie clips, material from the set, and interviews with participants. We hear from the Farrelly brothers, Black, Paltrow, and Tony Robbins. This show tries hard to be nutty and wacky, and Black indeed provides a few amusing bits. However, he presents very little information about the creation of the film and it includes far too many snippets from the flick. If you love Jack Black, give it a look, but otherwise skip this promotional affair.

After this we encounter 11 deleted scenes. These last between 20 seconds and four minutes, 43 seconds for a total of 26 minutes and 44 seconds of footage. Most of the segments actually extend existing parts of the film; only a few offer actual deleted scenes. Some of them seem entertaining, but most deserved to be cut, especially the additional examples of fat jokes.

The deleted scenes can be viewed with or without commentary from Peter and Bobby Farrelly. They still spend too much time pointing out various actors - particularly during the extras-intense “Sorority” segment - but they manage to convey the necessary information, particularly the reason why they cut the footage. Amusingly, they occasional get confused and aren’t sure what scenes made the final film; at one point they debate what parts of an extended scene showed up in the finished product!

Next we get a couple of featurettes. Seeing Through the Layers offers the better of the two. The 12-minute and 35-second program shows movie clips, lots of good behind the scenes footage and includes interview snippets with the Farrelly brothers, producer Thomas, body double Ivy Snitzer, makeup artist Tony Gardner, and actors Black, Paltrow, and Brooke Burns. Gardner offers most of the information, and he provides a lot of solid information about his work. We see excellent shots of the movie’s different makeups, and it’s a very entertaining and useful piece.

Into the Deep End, With Shallow Hal provides a two-minute and 25-second look at the movie’s pool stunt. It offers the same mix of film snippets, behind the scenes footage, and interviews with Black, Snitzer, Thomas, and stunt coordinator Martin Grace. Despite its brevity, the featurette covers the topic well, and its good material from the set makes it worth a look.

After this we encounter a music video for Shelby Lynne’s “Wall In Your Heart”. The three minute and 30 second piece combines movie clips, studio lip-synching, and some dramatic emoting from Lynne. It’s a decent song but a dull video.

A mix of ads round out the DVD. We find a 30-second music promo spot as well as a slew of trailers. We see the theatrical clip for Hal as well as pieces for Minority Report, Unfaithful, and Banger Sisters. In addition, the DVD includes a “Farrelly Brothers Trailer” that touts the DVDs for There’s Something About Mary, My, Myself and Irene, and Say It Isn’t So.

While Shallow Hal isn’t the worst movie made by the Farrelly brothers, it seems to be their dullest release. The film manages a few laughs and earns some points due to a good performance from Gwyneth Paltrow, but overall the flick appears dull and lifeless. The DVD provides moderately flawed but acceptable picture along with decent sound and a fairly nice group of supplements. Fans of Shallow Hal should like this DVD, but others probably will want to skip the excessively long and monotonous comedy.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3442 Stars Number of Votes: 61
8 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.