Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black, Jason Alexander, Joe Viterelli and Susan Ward.
Love them or hate them, the Farrelly brothers' films all have one thing in common. Well, two things if you count their mission to entertain people by their wholesale refusal to bow to political correctness. Apart from the latter, the films of the F brothers are also told with an ultimate insistence on warmth, sweetness and that great audience pleaser, the feel-good factor.
Here, Jack Black plays the eponymous Hal – whose childhood promise to his dying father never to settle for second best now sees him as an adult chasing only females at the upper end of the aesthetics scale. Girls of intelligence, humour and kindness don't figure for Hal; he seeks only girls whose parents didn't lose a bet with God. The biggest problem with this attitude is that Hal's own physical appearance is hugely incompatible with his shallow views on women. Short and stumpy, he's not what you'd call a modern Adonis. So, needless to say, he hasn't found his Venus.
Hal is joined on his crusade to find a partner of physical flawlessness by best friend Mauricio, played with considerable relish by 'Seinfeld' star Jason Alexander. Together, Hal and Mauricio spend their days and (especially) nights on the prowl for model material. This all changes, however, when Hal has an encounter with self-help guru Tony Robbins. Hypnotised to see only 'inner beauty', or lack thereof, now Hal only sees people in the physical manifestations of their true characters. He subsequently meets Rosemary (Paltrow), an obese woman to all and sundry, but whose heart of gold means the post-Robbins Hal sees her as a jaw-droppingly beautiful waif. Romance ensues as Hal woos the incredulous and sceptical Rosemary, blissfully unaware of her true, more conditioned, physical mien. Meanwhile, the scene-stealing Mauricio is less than impressed…
While it never comes near to matching 'There's Something About Mary' or the riotous 'Kingpin', 'Shallow Hal' still has enough going for it to prove Bobby and Peter Farrelly can still be relied upon to provide the laughs. Jack Black, with his penchant for cheeky grins and swagger-with-attitude, is expertly cast in the lead, while Paltrow, whose sole remit is to simultaneously look stunning and act embarrassed, certainly succeeds with the former task.
Although it's often quite shameless in its treatment of 'larger' people (lots of fat jokes, broken chairs, etc.), 'Shallow Hal' is ultimately warmer than the Farrellys' previous comic outings. Admittedly, many will point out that it smacks of hypocrisy to present Rosemary as the slim, curvy and downright stunningly beautiful woman that Paltrow so palpably is, for the vast majority of the film. No arguments there. Still, there's just about enough charm and laughs here to keep Farrelly fans happy. Even the fat ones.
Must be the feel-good factor.