Today’s Prayer Focus

Shallow Hal

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for language and sexual content

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Comedy
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 9, 2001
Relevant Issues
Jack Black and Jason Alexander in “Shallow Hal”

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

If God knows I am hurting, why doesn’t He help me? Answer

I’m ugly. Why was God so unfair to me this way? Answer

What are the Biblical guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

Featuring Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Alexander, Garry Shandling, Susan Ward
Director Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Producer Bradley Thomas, Charles B Wessler, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox

The Farrelly Brothers (“There’s Something About Mary” and “Me, Myself, and Irene”) continue their quest to be “equal-opportunity” offenders. This time they are exploring the superficial world of beauty in “Shallow Hal”.

Our story opens with Hal Larson (Jack Black in his first leading role) called to the bedside of his dying father (a minister) who passes on some shallow advice: 1) don’t ever settle for routine sex (using more vulgar language), 2) don’t ever settle for being average, and 3) find yourself a classic beauty (again with vulgar wording, emphasizing female body proportions). As viewers we are supposed to believe that this encounter shaped Hal’s thinking and his judgment. This, the first of many inconsistencies in a story filled with holes.

Hal reaches mid-life and skirt-chases one woman after another (all beautiful). A few are interested, but they quickly see through his superficial thinking. He is aided in this quest by his bud, Mauricio (Jason Alexander), a toupee-wearing loser who is just as shallow and, in one scene, proves it by dumping a seemingly beautiful woman because she has a disfigurement in one of her toes.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black in Shallow Hal

But Hal’s life is about to change. He gets stuck in an elevator with self-help guru Anthony Robbins (the best part of the film in a tremendous job of just being himself). He de-programs Hal and helps him to see, from now on, the inner-beauty in women and men. But here lies another inconsistency. Hal’s vision in this area is selective—even his best friend is still short and bald and his boss is still fat.

Hal’s view takes the predictable turn and he falls in love with a 300lb. Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow, who does a convincing and entertaining job in this role). But the producers over-do the issue of obesity, throwing in a plethora of fat jokes. We are led to believe that Hal’s hypnosis includes Rosemary breaking chairs in restaurants. We are also told that Rosemary’s father (who just happens to be Hal’s boss) is to blame for her low self-esteem. The film continues down a path that includes premarital sex, profanity, frequent discussions about sex, alcohol consumption, and other matters of bad taste.

There are some positive moments in “Shallow Hal.” Rosemary donates her time to children in the hospital, works with the Peace Corps, and gives her leftovers to homeless people. One of Hal’s friends has Spina Bifida and he has moments of inspiring courage. Unfortunately, these moments are eclipsed by the mountain of offensive material, the majority of which comes from Jason Alexander’s character. He is repugnant to the very end. Some of his advice includes: “Sometimes you have to [have sex with a fat woman, said in more vulgar terms] in order to feel better about yourself”. Yes, tasteless and crass he is.

We all grew up with the clichés “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “beauty is only skin deep”. We have watched the glamorous, rich, and famous get married—only to hear the demise of their empty choices. This film wants to be a romantic comedy and make a statement on the way our culture lives in a surface world. Christian music artist, Michael W. Smith, says it best in his song “Picture Perfect”: you don’t have to be picture perfect to be in my world. it’s too bad that “Shallow Hal” was neither entertaining or charming. In fact, the packed audience at the premier showing in our area hardly laughed at all!

Even hypnotism won’t lead most Christians to finding any inner beauty in this adults-only film. Instead of buying the wrong message of self-indulgence-cures-obesity taught in this film, read Eat More and Weigh Less by Dr. Dean Ornish (endorsed by the American Heart Association). Diet fads come and go, but I have found his healthy principals workable.

Viewer Comments
Negative—Shallow fits the film quite well. Although Hal is hypnotized to see a person’s inner beauty, it only applies to overweight, homely women. He does not see that his best friend is one the most shallow people in his life. Nor does he see that some beautiful women are actually ugly inside. Actually, this could be a slam at beautiful women, because Hal doesn’t see the inner beauty in any of them, and is only attracted to those he had overlooked before the elevator incident. In some scenes it is difficult to judge if it is Hal’s perception or reality. Some scenes seem to go nowhere at all.
My Ratings: [Average / 2½]
Neah, age 60
Positive—This was a very good movie about seeing past physical attraction and focusing on the inside of a person. It was portrayed in a very humorous way. I did not think that they over did it on the jokes (usually, anything from the Farrally bros. will contain pretty offensive jokes and barbs). This was a very sweet film, and something that I would not mind recommending to people!
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
Adam, age 19
Positive—The reason I went to see that movie last night is because some friends and coworkers have suggested that there is a flick out there about someone like me. I was honestly expecting something in a tradition of Dumb and Dumber ;) I was pleasantly surprised that it was not. I will not be disecting all the moral aspects and ratings, let me just say that I was convicted about my view of women. Cannot say that it changed entirely since I saw the movie, but as I watched it, I felt embarrassed more than anything else, because things about me that I know and am not proud of were exposed to the masses in a packed theater… One thing I feel that makers of the movie did a great job with is a portrayal of the inner beauty in a visual form. I think Palthrow’s acting was top notch in painting a picture of her incredibly kind and gentle nature and the way she felt about herself and her appearance. Great choice of an actress and the visuals. I also thought it interesting how Alexander kept up with his George Costanza character and delivered a great (if somewhat questionable) portrayal of a person who would not look beyond the surface in order to maintain his own ego. Bottom line, if you can live with a few s-words and don’t get offended by the fat jokes, go see it. You might find things you can relate to. I surely did…
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
Shallow AL, age 25
Neutral—“Shallow Hal” did have its fair share of sexual references and obscene language, but it is an accurate portrayal of what goes on in many guys’ minds. This movie should not be offensive. We live in a sinfully sick world and Hal’s character portrays that. The redemption of the movie is when Hal realizes that he will be happy in a relationship that has friendship and is meaningful compared to one that is purely sexual and lustful. As a guy, I was challenged by “Shallow Hal’s” message.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
James, age 23
Negative—I personally find this movie very offensive. First off, I am a heavy set person and I do NOT appreciate the so-called humor of this horrid movie. I may be only a sixteen year old, but I know when someone is pushing things way to far. I have learned in my few years that you are not to judge someone by the outer appearance. The bible itself says to love thy neighbor as thyself. People should have respect and sympathy for people who have this problem. I am sorry to say that it has come to people making fun of people to make money, and I am extremely ashamed that you must have foul language in a movie to have a laugh. Where did wholesome, fun-loving movies go? Why can’t people just watch Scooby and be happy? I am a teenager and even I find this offensive. How would the creators of this movie feel is we were to make fun of them or of their family? I think if these so-called creators would look at themselves and realize God made us who we are for a reason, then maybe we could have better movies!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 1]
Amanda, age 16
Positive—I did not think I would be able to convince so many people to go out and see “Shallow Hal” last night, but in the end, six of us went out to the theatre. Every one of us came close to tears during this movie, which was so sweet and adorable! The gross-out gags were obviously toned down a bit from the normal Farrely brothers films, which I typically avoid. (Really, who needed the “hair gel” scene in “There’s Something About Mary?”) Jack Black is our new hero! I’ve been a fan for a while (if you don’t know, he has a sort of cult following these days) and now I’m an even bigger fan. The movie was sweet and funny and entertaining and made all six of us girls leave feeling happy to have made the drive out to the theatre!
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
Donna M., age 18
Neutral—…I liked the idea of this movie, to teach people that there is more than meets the eye. I, myself, am not as big as Rosemary but I’m still overweight and fairly confident in myself. The ending of the movie (minus the shots of the production crew at the end) was really touching. This movie does have its bad moments as well as the good. There is a slew of sexual humor in this film as well as everyone’s share of fat jokes. I also found that Hal’s dying (and sedated) minister-father makes inappropriate references to women and then says they come from the Bible; very offensive. Another negative product of this film is Hal’s buddy, Mauricio (Jason Alexander), who is just as shallow as Hal is. And I’m not going to forget the somewhat excessive use of profanity either. Although the profanity was limited, the s-word flows freely from the mouths of the characters in the film. Fellow Christians: when seeing this film, be wary of what you see.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 3]
Shannon, age 20