Shallow Hal

By Mark Ramsey | 2001/11/11

You know a guy is starting off life on the wrong foot when his dad on his deathbed advises him: “Don’t be satisfied with routine poontang; hot young tail is what it’s all about.” With that superficial affirmation, dad kicks the can and the EKG flat-line twists into “20th Century Fox presents…” This isn’t the first time a flat-line has opened a Farrelly brothers movie – see Osmosis Jones or Say It Isn’t So. Nobody else did, and even the crickets and tumbleweed gave those two thumbs down.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” goes the saying and so goes the theme of Shallow Hal. It’s downright Shrek-ian, but this time the ogre and the jackass are played by Jack Black and Jason Alexander, respectively.


Evidently, Albert Brooks lent his orange-peel hairstyle to Jason Alexander. If rugs wore sandwich boards, Jason’s would read: “The wearer is the proud proprietor of print toner dealerships stretching from Cincinnati to Toledo. Give him his props!”

Jason plays a guy named “Mauricio” even though he looks more Minute Rice than Paella, more Gas than Gazpacho, more Flatulent than Flan.

Jack Black skips the spray paint hair in favor of the neo-Liberace look. Who did Jack’s hair, anyway, Wayne Newton?

Jack has been superb in supporting roles, especially in High Fidelity, but somewhere between sidekick and superstar, the stuff that made Jack Black turned a pale gray.

In Shallow Hal, Jack’s only interested in superficial relationships with women who resemble supermodels, as if such women offer other options. That’s until he has an elevator encounter with Personal Power guru, Yuppie coal-walker, and spiritual leader to anyone who has ever played 18 holes, Tony Robbins. There, in the stillness of a stuck elevator, Tony boils down 24 audiotapes and countless late-night infomercials to give Jack a lesson in neurolinguistic programming, which is not the kind of cunning linguistics Jack typically prefers, if you know what I’m saying.

“Look inside, where the true beauty lies,” says Tony, unleashing the power within, not to mention the biggest incisors this side of Jurassic Park – in Kenya they’d shoot a man for those ivories!

Tony casts a whammy of a spell over Jack. From then on, whenever a babe looks like the Wicked Witch of the West, Jack sees only Glinda the Good Witch.

Enter Gwyneth Paltrow who we’re supposed to imagine is 300 pounds. They couldn’t use a real 300-pound actress, of course, because they were all auditioning for cashier roles at Wal*Mart.

Look, it’s not the average-guy-dates-heavy-girl part that’s hard to believe, it’s the Gwyneth-Paltrow-is-300-pounds part that stretches incredulity so thin Intel could stamp a microprocessor on it and call it the Pentium LB.

shallowhal_pteradactyl.jpgGwyn and Jack are an odd combo. Gwyneth’s a good foot taller than Jack, so when they’re standing side-by-side you can’t help but conclude they’re forming steps to the stratosphere. When Jack holds up 300-pound Gwyn’s enormous panties, it looks as if he’s being attacked by a prehistoric flying pterodactyl.

Gwyneth’s Irish dad – who is also Jack’s boss – is played like an overgrown Leprechaun. What does his company make, anyway, pink marshmallow hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers?

Yes, it’s what’s inside that counts, so teaches superstar Gwyneth, whose A-list outsides are on display au natural in the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Now what were you saying about insides, Gwyneth?

In fact, Gwyn’s insides couldn’t be more mysterious if they hid secret Egyptian mummy tombs. It’s her outsides that concern us, thus our attraction to this movie is no more than skin-deep. And using your nude superstar profile to plug a movie about beauty on the inside is both disingenuous and patronizing. After all, there are no real women in this movie, only super-duper models and super-duper models made up ugly. Somewhere, Janeane Garofalo is banging her head against the wall.

Shallow Hal is more sweetly comical than funny. It’s a trifle on a par with Gwyneth’s Duets. If you need your messages wrapped around a 2×4 and pounded relentlessly against your willing skull, this is the movie for you.

But if you’re annoyed by preachy zeal where the subtext up-ends the text, then sit this one out.

Shallow Hal is shallow, pal.

Photos Copyright ©2001 Twentieth Century Fox


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