Shallow Hal

Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Starring: Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Alexander, Joe Viterelli.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual content.

Review by Eugene Kopman <>
December 15, 2001

The Farrelly Brothers have hit a new low with their latest comedy. Shallow Hal had a great premise put failed to deliver as a truly funny comedy.

On his deathbed, Reverend Larson (Bruce McGill) told his son Hal to never settle for an average woman. He also said that Hal should go to women with beautiful behinds and big breasts and to never settle down for love.

When Hal (Jack Black) grew up, all he cared for were beautiful, model-type women with whom a small pudgy man has obviously no chance. Hal and his best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander), who is as shallow as Hal, cruise bars looking for "the perfect woman." Obviously, no women want to have anything to do with the both of them, but they keep trying.

After not getting a promotion he very much wanted, Hal gets stuck in an elevator with Tony Robbins (playing himself), who opens Hal's eyes. Tony tells Hal that from that point on, Hal will see the inner beauty instead of the outside physical appearance of women. The next thing Hal knows, beautiful women like him and are willing to talk and dance with him. Mauricio sees it otherwise. In a dance club, Hal thinks he is dancing with three gorgeous women, but in real life, they are, not to sound shallow, butt-ugly.

While driving around, Hal notices a beautiful woman named Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the two start to see each other. What Hal doesn't seem to realize is that Rosemary is actually 300 pounds. And no matter how many hints Hal gets of Rosemary's true nature -- a chair breaking under her or a pair of panties the size of a wind sail -- he still doesn't get it.

Yes, Shallow Hal had some funny and touching moments. It was funny to see two losers try to pick up supermodels, and it was touching to see Hal talk to a young sick girl in a hospital, but that was about it. But the character of Hal is stupid and ignorant; maybe that was the point, but it did not work for me. Jack Black is not a good romantic lead; he is good playing himself, like his kooky sidekick in High Fidelity.

Jason Alexander was the best part of the film until the end, when his character becomes disgusting. Joe Viterelli, who played Rosemary's father, is known for playing Mafia tough guys, like Jelly in Analyze This and Nick Valenti in Bullets Over Broadway. In this film, he had an Irish accent, which did not work in the least.

And now we come to Gwyneth. I give her and a big part of the cast credit; instead of having doubles, the actors themselves wore the fat suits, which helped them get into character, and I admire them for that. But Gwyneth's performance was too goofy, ignorant and pitiful. There were many other beautiful women in that movie who could have played this easy role just as well. This role called for a stunningly beautiful woman and I don't see Gwyneth fitting that profile. [Speak for yourself. --Ed.]

The best character in the film is a man with spina bifidia named Walt (Rene Kirby). Not only is he the only normal character, but he also has the most confidence and instead of moping about his handicap, he uses it to his advantage by beating impossible odds, like skiing and gymnastics.

Shallow Hal has a great message of looking within a person, but the movie went about it in a very wrong way.

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Shallow Hal (2001)

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