A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has very strong language for a PG-13, especially the sexual references. Characters drink, and several scenes are set at a bar/nightclub. The overall theme of the movie is the importance of judging people based on their behavior, not their looks. Robbins explains that Black is not hypnotized now -- he was hypnotized before, when he thought that all of the TV and movie images of beauty were what mattered. Some viewers may feel that the movie itself makes fun of people who do not fit current standards of beauty. A disabled character is treated with complete naturalness -- he is by no means perfect (because he gets around on all fourts, he tells girls he recognizes them by their panties), but he's good-hearted and respected.
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What's the story?
Hal (Jack Black) and his best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander) are two pudgy guys who insist on women with absolute physical perfection. Even though Hal is a pretty nice guy who is good at his job, when it comes to women, he is undeniably shallow. Then he and infomercial star Anthony Robbins get stuck in an elevator together, and Robbins gives Hal a gift -- from now on, Hal will see people the way they are, not the way they look. Suddenly, all around him are gorgeous girls who are very interested in him. They're interested in him because he thinks they are beautiful, and he thinks they are beautiful because they are kind, generous, beautiful people. Mauricio is horrified, especially when Hal falls for Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), who volunteers at the local hospital and works for the Peace Corps. Mauricio looks at her and sees a hugely obese woman. Hal looks at her and sees -- Gwyneth Paltrow.
Is it any good?
The Farrelly brothers, known for gross-out comedies, have taken a couple of giant, if uncertain, steps toward the mainstream with this fairly conventional romantic comedy. SHALLOW HAL even has an undeniably sweet moral -- that true beauty is seen with the heart, not the eyes. Black's specialty is a sort of frenzied but charming energy, and unfortunately, this movie does not give him much opportunity to show it off. Paltrow has some nice moments as Rosemary, a vulnerable woman who has felt humiliatingly invisible all her life.
But one problem with the movie is that instead of the characters themselves being funny, the jokes in the movie happen around them. Black and Paltrow do the best they can, but there just is not enough comic energy at the core of the movie. Some Farelly trademarks make it into the movie, including a disabled character (athlete Rene Kirby, who has spina bifida) and a bizarre physical aberration. But overall, it seems as though it is something of a transitional film for the Farrellys, enjoyable on its own and as a suggestion of better things to come.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: November 9, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: July 2, 2002
- Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black, Jason Alexander
- Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language and sexual content
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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