Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow star in this Farrelly brothers comedy. Hal Larson (Black) is a typical Joe Blow when it comes to his aspirations for a date - he likes women who are magazine beautiful and doesn't care about personality. He keeps an eye out for prospective dates while at the bar with his long-term buddy Mauricio (Jason Alexander), but somehow the A-list beauties just aren't attracted to slob Hal. After a chance meeting with (real-life) management guru Anthony Robbins, however, Hal is hypnotized to see the 'inner' beauty in other people and starts finding the obese thin and attractive. He then strikes up a relationship with the seemingly beautiful Rosemary (Paltrow), who in fact weighs over three hundred pounds. His friends aren't sure what to make of this strange turn in Hal's life and resolve to bring him back from his hypnotic reverie, with unexpected results.
After a succession of hugely successfully movies of a lower brow nature, Shallow Hal finds the Farrelly Brothers attempting a slightly more thoughtful film, albeit still tied up in their trademark toilet humour. It's an approach that is not unproblematic but not unsuccessful either, resulting in a film that engages the emotions in a manner that the likes of Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin and There's Something About Mary never suggested possible.
Jack Black is the Hal of the title, a man whose less than commendable attitude to women is suddenly altered by the rather credibility-stretching plot device of a chance meeting with a hypnotist. Henceforth Hal is only capable of seeing the beauty within, a development that allows for much humour at the expense of the less fortunate in the name of some sort of social comment. From it all, however, emerges a quite touching love story with Paltrow's character Rosemary and proof that the Farrellys do have something of a sensitive side--no matter how deep it may be buried. The ending may be woefully predictable, but such is the deftness of touch with which the story is told, that it is still the one we are all rooting for. This is a sickly sweet film in the truest terms.
On the DVD: Shallow Hal comes with a plethora of extras on disc, including a series of mini-documentaries and TV specials, all of which plug the film but offer very little insight. That does come, however, from the handily subtitled directors' commentary, which demonstrates clearly the clash of cultures occurring in the movie. As well as commenting on the physical appearance of every female cast member who passes before the camera, the brothers also pay touching tribute to a colleague who passed away during the shoot and seem to know the name of every single extra and crew member who worked on the project, surely a rarity in these days of big budgets and faceless studios. There is also a large selection of deleted scenes, also with added commentary, a perfunctory music video from Shelby Lynne and a documentary on some of the technical aspects of the film. --Phil Udell