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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Shallow Hal (2001)

"You wanna see a splash? I'm gonna show you a splash."
- Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: June 30, 2002

Stars: Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow
Other Stars: Jason Alexander, Joe Viterelli, Susan Ward
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual content
Run Time: 01h:53m:38s
Release Date: July 02, 2002
UPC: 024543040033
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-A-B B

DVD Review

Shallow Hal is, on many levels, a very offensive comedy. Oh, it isn't the typical Farrelly brothers gross-out humor (which, while often very funny, is rarely insulting to anything more than, perhaps, the audience's intelligence)—that's the problem. Rather, it seems the brothers decided to grow up with this one, crafting a syrupy romantic comedy about a shallow guy hypnotized into seeing only a person's inner beauty. The conceit that fat people are always beautiful people on the inside is certainly not original, but there is something not quite right about illustrating this fact by A) casting one of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood to play the supposedly bloated and obese lead, and B) using said obesity as a laugh generator, expecting the audience to both love the character and to laugh at her.

Jack Black plays Hal, and shallow is just about the right word to describe him. He's interested in women only for their looks, ignorant of the fact that he isn't exactly Tyson Beckford himself. Everything changes when he gets stuck in an elevator with Tony Robbins, who works his motivation mojo and changes the way Hal sees people. Suddenly, people who are ugly on the outside look beautiful to Hal because they are beautiful people inside, and certain nasty lookers are transformed into the ugly people they are inside.

Admittedly, this is a great concept for a comedy, and the central storyline, concerning Hal's relationship with Rosemary, an overweight woman played by Gwyneth Paltrow under mounds of latex, works very well. The pair have great chemistry—Black is an underrated actor and Paltrow emotes nicely even while in her "fat suit" (though she only wears it when being seen through eyes other than Hal's)—and the jokes and sight gags that the Farrellys come up with (including the huge wave created when svelte Paltrow jumps into a pool, or the sight of Black's end of a canoe sticking three feet out of the water, held aloft by the "skinny" Paltrow) are frequently inspired.

Where the film falters is in its handling of the central message, which is obviously that what people are on the inside is more important than what they look like. It is, of course, a foregone conclusion that Hal will be forced to realize this or to remain unhappy and shallow for the rest of his life. And scenes where he realizes that a beautiful little girl he met volunteering at a hospital with Rosemary is actually a patient at a burn unit illustrate this very nicely. But why, if Rosemary, or any other "pretty-ugly" character, is supposed to be accepted "as is," do the Farrellys try so hard to make sure to hit every single fat joke in the book? Sure, the big splash is cute, but why do chairs constantly have to break under Rosemary's weight? It's a cruel jab—she isn't that fat—and we're clearly laughing at her, not at the situation.

Also questionable is the casting of such a skinny actress in the lead role. What message is Hollywood sending by setting Paltrow up as the standard while trying to say that being fat is ok at the same time? And why are the "ugly" characters played by actresses that look like models? Hey, why not actually cast some normal people, and figure out a different way to show Hal's point of view? The thing is, the picture tries to have it both ways, and it simply doesn't work.

Serious discussion aside, though, Shallow Hal still works very well as a simple romantic comedy. The Farrelly's direction is brisk and engaging as usual (though, as with most of their films, the thing is just too long), and though there aren't any huge laughs, the script is consistent with its humor (a highlight is Hal's even more shallow friend Mauricio, played by Jason Alexander doing full-tilt George Costanza). If not for the overly sappy and trite "moral to the story" I'd probably like it a lot more. As it is, I was amused.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This is a great transfer from the folks at Fox. Comedies usually equal eye-popping colors, and Shallow Hal is no exception. That palette is beautifully reproduced on DVD, with great contrast and saturated colors. Black level is very good, as is shadow delineation. I noticed just a hair of edge enhancement and no significant artifacts to speak of. Of course, with such a new film, the print is more or less pristine as well. Good all around.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 mix is fine for a comedy track. Surround effects are kept to a minimum, and exist mostly to enhance the score. Dialogue is presented well and always clear. The soundtrack is made up mostly of pop songs, which fill out the front soundstage a bit. Certainly not the most immersive track I've heard, even for the genre, but decent nonetheless.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Minority Report, Unfaithful, Banger Sisters, Farrelly Brothers Films
1 TV Spots/Teasers
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by co-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:06m:51s

Extra Extras:
  1. Shelby Lynne music video Wall in Your Heart
Extras Review: Shallow Hal has a fairly typical extras package for a current release, which means lots of promotional materials, and just a few extras of real substance. Still, with a comedy like this, the HBO-style featurettes probably provide just about as much substance as the film deserves.

The HBO piece runs just a hair under 15 minutes and manages to pack in entire minutes of substantive material. A former Baywatch babe hosts the segment, walking around Hollywood asking people questions about shallowness in general. Interspersed are too many clips of the film, which ruin far too many of the best jokes. There is a great segment where Paltrow, in fat suit, goes out to a bar to see how people will react to her and is shocked by the feelings of isolation. Of course, she's such a huge star that not being mobbed for autographs probably feels isolating.

Reel Comedy: Shallow Hal, from Comedy Central, runs seven minutes longer than the HBO piece but manages to be even less informative about the making of the film. It's simply lots of clips of the actors and crew acting goofy while describing the movie, mixed with many of the same film clips from the other special. Both of these "documentaries" are slickly produced, amusing, and well-edited, but they really exist to get butts in theater seats, not to actually reveal anything about the production of the movie.

You'd hope that more of substance would be communicated with the commentary track from directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, but, as they do on all of their commentaries, the two spend most of their time pointing out who is in the movie, and talking about how they met that person or how they were cast. Very few production anecdotes are offered, and no technical details of any kind. It's all very upbeat and at times amusing, but that's not really the purpose of a commentary track, now is it?

For real making-of material, check out Seeing Through the Layers, a piece on the creation of Paltrow's various fat suits. Also of interest are interviews with the body doubles (i.e. real overweight women) that subbed for Paltrow in scenes where the make-up wouldn't have worked. It is encouraging to see people that are obviously happy with how they look (certainly taking such a part would open you up to a lot of criticism). In at the Deep End is a brief piece on the special effects required to film the famous "big splash" during the pool scene.

Eleven deleted scenes, which seem to run somewhere around 20 minutes (none of the extras are time coded) offer material excised from the film for pacing of simply because the jokes didn't fit as well. Cut storylines include more with Hal's friends and co-workers, and some of it is funny, but really not necessary in telling the story. Director commentary is an option when viewing these scenes, and though the comments are funny, the two again offer little insight as to why the material was deleted.

Rounding out the promotional material is the Shelby Lynne music video for Wall in Your Heart, a soundtrack promo spot, the trailer, and additional trailers for DVDs of the Farrelly brothers films, Minority Report, Unfaithful, and Banger Sisters.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

For all its moralizing about loving someone for who, not what, they are, Shallow Hal is a wafer-thin movie just packed with fat jokes. Which isn't to say that it isn't funny or entertaining in a brainless comedy sense. Fox's DVD tips the scales with quite a few bonus materials, making this one a worthwhile rental or purchase.

 


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