Playing opposite Paltrow's 300-pound Rosemary is Jack Black, a spastic jack-in-the-box who can create comedy no matter how bad the underlying material is (see High Fidelity, Saving Silverman). Shallow Hal is no exception, and in his first starring role, Black manages to carry the film all by his lonesome, despite the most threadbare of plots. Case in point: In a freak elevator encounter, motivational speaker Tony Robbins (as himself) puts a little mind-meld on Hal (Black) in order to force him to stop evaluating women just by their external appearance; instead he will see only their "inner beauty." As expected, the ugly girls suddenly all appear as supermodels to Hal, the aloof beauties appear as hags.
Hal's best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander) is flabbergasted and tries to save his buddy, but it's too late -- Hal has encountered Rosemary-as-Gwyneth, and he's falling in love. Meanwhile, Mauricio works to reverse the "voodoo" that Robbins has wrought... and of course Hal will eventually see the world for what it is. But will "shallow" Hal learn to rise above it all anyway? Remember, it's a big love story, in the end.
Black is so much fun that it's easy to look past the third gag where Rosemary crushes a chair and Hal can't understand why to see this movie for its inner... well, not beauty, but smirk-inducing comedy, I guess. Paltrow provides a bit of fun, though she has a lot less "fat" screen time than you'd expect (yes, that's really her under the suit), and she doesn't ever seem quite comfortable with the part. After all, the girl's got an Oscar.
It's a one-joke movie, no doubt, but at least it's a reasonably uplifting joke. Directed by the Farrelly brothers, it seems that they've done at a minute amount of growing up since the days of Dumb & Dumber and Kingpin. Sure, physical ailments are the comic rule in Hal -- not just fat jokes, but all manner of defects (notably involving a poor guy with spina bifida who spends the whole film on all fours) -- but by and large it all comes off as reasonable funny. It's not laugh-out-loud hysterical (those bits are all in the trailer), but the movie is so good-natured about its ribbing (Hal is seeing past all these issues so it's hard to find yourself insulted) that you'll find yourself giggling at Rosemary's appetite or the even-greater shallowness of Mauricio. (Fellas: For a great gag you can try at home, after the movie, tell your S.O., "You remind me of Gwyneth Paltrow!" It's great fun.)
Of course, the inner realist always gets the better of me in movies like this. So, platitudes aside: Is encouraging morbid obesity really a good thing? I'm sure Rosemary and Hal will have a wonderfully happy life together... until she's dead after three years thanks to a heart attack. Or diabetes. What kind of romance is that?
Tiny bubbles in the wine make me happy all the time.
Run time: 114 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th November 2001
Box Office USA: $70.7M
Box Office Worldwide: $70.8M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Fresh: 61 Rotten: 59
IMDB: 5.9 / 10
Screenwriter: Mark Charpentier
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow as Rosemary Shanahan, Jack Black as Hal Larson, Jason Alexander as Mauricio Wilson, Joe Viterelli as Steve Shanahan, Bruce McGill as Reverend Larson, Tony Robbins as Tony Robbins, Susan Ward as Jill, Zen Gesner as Ralph, Brooke Burns as Katrina, Rob Moran as Second Tiffany, Kyle Gass as Artie, Nan Martin as Nurse Tanya Peeler, Sasha Neulinger as Young Hal, Erinn Bartlett as Bella, Daniel Greene as Doctor
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