[box cover]

Shallow Hal

Bobby and Peter Farrelly must be getting soft in their old age. Because despite its potentially inflammatory subject material, Shallow Hal isn't nearly as outrageous as the brothers' previous cinematic outings (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, et al). The good news is that it's a refreshing change — a sweet romantic comedy that rises above its moments of lowest-common-denominator humor (most of which rather inexplicably feature a very game fellow with spina bifida) to offer a positive message about love and perception. Much of the movie's appeal is centered squarely in its star, Jack Black. Often manic and devilish on screen, the charismatic comic is a little more restrained (but still funny) as Hal, an average-looking guy who — thanks to his father's drug-influenced deathbed ramblings — only pursues physically "perfect" women. Oblivious to the fact that they're elevens and he's a five, Hal refuses to consider other options until he meets hulking motivational speaker Tony Robbins in an elevator. Stunned at Hal's shallowness, Robbins gives Hal the ability to see the physical manifestation of a person's inner beauty. It works like a charm, and Hal starts meeting "beautiful" women who actually like him back wherever he goes. But it's kind, funny Peace Corps veteran Rosemary that he really falls for; to Hal, not only is she sweet and smart, but she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow. They're happy as clams until Hal's equally shallow friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander, basically playing a slightly nerdier version of George Costanza) opens Hal's eyes to the truth: Rosemary weighs more than 300 pounds. Of course, the audience has known that all along — mostly thanks to obvious gags like itty bitty Gwynnie breaking innumerable chairs and jumping into a pool and splashing half of the water out — but Hal needs some time to adjust. He makes the right decision in the end, but that doesn't change the fact that Shallow Hal, while well-meaning, never really questions society's perception of beauty — it just makes one guy "noble" enough to work around it. (At least there weren't any hair gel jokes... ) Fox's DVD has all the bells and whistles a fan could hope for. Leading the list is the Farrellys' typically folksy commentary; as usual, they spend far more time pointing out crew members' wives in the background than they do discussing the film's production, but at least they're enthusiastic. Other extras include 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary, an HBO "making-of" special, a Comedy Central special, two production featurettes (the one on makeup is interesting), the video for Shelby Lynne's "Wall in Your Heart," a music promo spot, and trailers. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is clear (other options include Spanish and French Dolby Surround tracks and English subtitles). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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