Shallow Hal Review
When Hal was nine years old, his father, dying on his deathbed, told him some valuable advice - the most important thing is to chase women who have great looks; never mind their inner qualities or falling in love. As Hal loved his dad, he took this advice to heart. Now Hal (Jack Black) has grown up, and persistently attempts to woo women way out of his league, and attractive solely on a superficial level. Hal never understands why his relationships are lacking in fireworks. His best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander) is also having the same problem, in that for both men, their shallowness is finding faults in any woman they meet. Hal's life takes a strange turning one day, when he is stuck in a lift with motivational guru Tony Robbins for many hours. Hal confesses the problems of his relationships to Tony, and the guru informs him that he can change Hal's life, and will teach him to look primarily for the 'inner beauty' of a woman without worrying solely about the appearance. Hal thinks nothing of this encounter, until he starts actually seeing women completely differently to how the rest of the world sees them. When Hal sees an obese woman who happens to have a kind and generous heart, his brain gives him a picture of a beautiful and skinny woman. This also works vice versa, as when Hal sees a very attractive woman who happens to be a bitch, his brain visually decodes a picture of an obese and repulsive looking woman. Hal then meets Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is tremendously overweight to the rest of the world, but Hal sees her as the beanpole that is Gwyneth Paltrow. Soon Hal falls in love with her, despite the constant flack from his friends and from society in general, who find him odd for thinking Rosemary is beautiful. Also, Rosemary is the daughter of Hal's rich boss, which has caused cynics to doubt the sincerity of his intentions. After a series of mishaps and situations, Hal is forced to understand the hard way about never judging a book by its cover.
Directed by the Farrelly Brothers, who have slid downhill ever since There's Something About Mary, Shallow Hal never peaks above a mildly amusing level. It's the type of film that relies heavily upon the five or six hilarious scenes that you tell your friends about after seeing it, except there aren't any in Shallow Hal. Most of the effective comedies switch between hilarity and plot-fuelled breathers. The problem with Shallow Hal is that the Farrellys have to tell too much plot in order to push the film along, and don't have enough gags to play with. There are some funny moments, usually involving physical abnormalities, but these are all grabbed from the trailer anyhow.
Credit to the Farrellys for casting Jack Black, a man whose sole purpose in Hollywood looks destined to be the filler of John Belushi's shoes. However, Gwyneth Paltrow's ego-fuelling role as the epitome of beauty never really stretches into three dimensions. Jason Alexander gives some OK support, but again his character is just the typical neurotic best friend. The plot also requires a huge suspension of disbelief, not because of the premise, but because of the fact that Hal only sees differently the people he has never met before. What would be more interesting is if Hal saw all of his friends differently through his new outlook. The film also received much criticism over its decidedly loose moral core. This is because of the fact that even though the film encourages to look within one's 'inner beauty', the film still uses the wafer-thin female image to represent beauty. It's probably fair to the Farrellys to say that their heart is in the right place with Shallow Hal, even if they weren't wearing their best comedy hat during the production.