Saturday, February 26, 2011
What does marriage have to do with school?
I think Hall Pass is a great name for a movie.
I'm just not sure if it's a great name for this particular movie.
What does having a hall pass really have to do with taking a temporary break from your marriage?
You could make a lot of jokes in answer to the question I posed in the subject of this post. "Marriage is like school because it feels like it goes on forever." "Marriage is like school because you have to go through the same motions, day after day, learning things you don't want to learn without any apparent endgame." "Marriage is like school because your wife is as strict as a teacher, and makes you ashamed of your grammar." "Marriage is like school because in marriage, you feel like you're in a constant state of detention."
I get that, but it's not really like school -- not enough to make a "hall pass" be the thing that gives you freedom from the bonds of matrimony.
Let's look at what a "hall pass" really is, as most generically defined. A hall pass is what allows you to walk around school grounds without teacher supervision. Correct? Okay, so I kind of get what Peter and Bobby Farrelly are going for here -- a marital hall pass would let you walk around the world without spousal supervision.
The thing is, a hall pass is given to people who plan to use it responsibly. Trustworthy students are given hall passes because they plan to walk straight to the bathroom, straight to the library, or straight to the principal's office. If the latter, however, it wouldn't be a visit to the principal involving disciplinary action. The people sent to the principal's office for disciplinary reasons are the very people who cannot be trusted with a hall pass.
So while a hall pass is given to someone at school because they plan to use it for good, the hall pass Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis' characters' wives give them is to be used exclusively for the purposes of evil. It would be the equivalent of giving the most delinquent ruffian in school a license to steal lunch money from nerds and give wedgies to wimps.
Now, if this delinquent ruffian were to procure a hall pass illegally, that would be another thing. But that doesn't echo the scenario in Hall Pass either. If Wilson and Sudeikis stole their hall passes, they wouldn't be hall passes at all. That's what's called "cheating."
So what title would work better?
As usual, Spanish speakers know how to translate our titles better than we do.
As you can see above, I included the Spanish language version of the poster for Hall Pass, in which the title is translated as Carta Blanca. I'm not fluent in the language, but I believe that translates to White Card. However, what it really translates to is a French phrase: Carte Blanche. Because that's really what this movie is about, isn't it? Two husbands given carte blanche to do whatever they want (I know that's redundant) for a short period of time.
But here in the U.S., we obviously can't call a gross-out sex comedy Carte Blanche. So let's think of some other titles that we could actually use.
1) Bachelor Week - Nope. Too literal. Has no ring to it.
2) License to Cheat - A little bit better. But using the word "cheat" tends to crucify the characters. We have to come out of this experience liking Wilson and Sudeikis -- who, let's face it, will probably not end up cheating on their wives, because they're our heroes and they genuinely love their better halves.
3) Marriage Vacation - Too confusing, and too literal. Both at the same time.
4) Time Off For Good Behavior - Sort of catchy, but a bit abstract, and a bit inexact.
5) Untitled Farrelly Brothers Project - Too insiderish.
Okay, I couldn't come up with anything better. Hall Pass it is. But that doesn't mean I can't complain about it.
A couple other thoughts on Hall Pass:
1) If I had to translate into words Jason Sudeikis' facial expression in this poster, those words would be "I'm going to see some tit-TAYS!"
2) I want to look forward to this movie, but the Farrelly Brothers have been on a major losing streak. I have hated -- hated -- the last two movies they directed, which were Fever Pitch (2005) and The Heartbreak Kid (2007). Stuck on You (2003) was only slightly better than that. You have to go back ten years to Shallow Hal in 2001 to find a Farrelly movie I actually liked. And though I do like Shallow Hal pretty well, I'm still not 100% sure I think it has the message right -- I mean, if Jack Black is actually seeing these people as beautiful, is he really learning anything? I've decided to set aside my concerns with Shallow Hal and just say that I got enough laughs out of it and liked what they were trying to do, even if they didn't 100% succeed.
In any case, the Farrellys' last unqualified hit was There's Something About Mary in 1998. If we're feeling optimistic based on a 13-year-old movie, we should really examine that optimism more closely.