On the surface, a comedy about a week off from marriage seems to have potential. The question has been asked many times: Are people wired to spend their whole lives in monogamous relationships? Married people often wonder what would happen if they weren’t married, if only for a week.

Few act on that desire, probably because they use their imagination and don’t like what they see. For those without the ability to visualize outcomes, Hall Pass, the latest comedy from Peter and Bobby Farrelly, provides the answer: Don’t do it.

Instead of using a clever and original story, the Farrellys go the crass and sophomoric route. The few funny scenes and lines are lost amid a stream of cringe-inducing moments. Those range from embarrassment at a massage parlor to multiple occurrences of indecent exposure and bathroom humor. (Spoiler alert: Only one in the latter category happens in a bathroom, and neither involves a toilet.)

Hall Pass follows Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Saturday Night Live star Jason Sudeikis, who may not be ready to co-star in a big-name comedy) in their week left alone together in the Providence suburbs. Their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate), encouraged by older friend (Bill O’Reilly walkout participant Joy Behar), give them free rein after a few ill-timed leers — and overheard conversations on reversed baby monitors and hidden cameras. With their spouses off to Cape Cod, Rick and Fred face a daunting but potentially thrilling challenge, if they choose to see it through.

Lest people think the men have all the fun, the wives meet some men –specifically a young player and a coach — at the Cape Cod Baseball League (credit to the Farrellys for using wooden bats there). While their husbands are starting their nights at Applebee’s and stumbling through bad pickup lines, the women start to enjoy the ample attention they are paid.
Wilson’s Rick is more reluctant than Sudeikis’ Fred, just as Fischer’s Maggie is more restrained than Applegate’s Grace. But all four give more-than-token efforts to take advantage of their “week off from marriage.” Rick tries his best with an Australian barista (Nicky Whelan). Fred tries his best with pretty much anyone. The women have their friends from the baseball team.

For the Farrelly Brothers, Hall Pass comes out closer to Heartbreak Kid. It’s not near the level of Me, Myself and Irene, much less There’s Something About Mary. Crudeness has its place in movies, but only if is is balanced out by cleverness. No one ever accused Knocked Up of being G-rated, but it was still funny. Hall Pass, which has a few too many shots that meet the “graphic nudity” description in its R rating, lets the crudeness eclipse the cleverness.

Appearances by Alyssa Milano and Richard Jenkins don’t do much, though Jenkins’ Coakley, a lifelong bachelor and womanizer, does provide a few laughs in the film’s second half. Jenkins’ 2009 Oscar nomination for The Visitor hasn’t exactly led to a great filmography, but he has been a staple in Farrelly Brothers movies. A group of male friends, played by a misused Stephen Merchant, J.B. Smoove and Larry Joe Campbell, make Rick and Fred’s quest a spectator sport. But they don’t make it a funny one.

Hall Pass is another disappointing entry from the Farelly Brothers, who weren’t able to elevate their version of the title above the humor of its original users – middle- and high-school boys.