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[whitespace] 'Shallow Hal'
TIPPECANOE AND JACK BLACK, TOO Gwyneth Paltrow puts some muscle into her day on the lake with Jack Black in 'Shallow Hal.'

Crafty Gaff

The Farrelly Brothers want to smirk and smile at the same time in 'Shallow Hal'

By Richard von Busack

THE FARRELLY BROTHERS' angle is becoming more obvious in every film, and it's a crafty gaff. Their movies are freak shows, but they're covered with a layer of patently insincere sensitivity so that modern viewers can gawk and still feel good about themselves. Shallow Hal is a comedy on the theme that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. An executive (Jack Black) is hypnotized out of his impossibly high standards for women's looks and thus falls for a 350-pound girl named Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow: still vague, even when hefty).

Some funny moments are supplied by Jason Alexander. Alexander, wearing a spray-on toupee that looks like a suede yarmulke, takes the violently coarse best-friend part that Black once would have played. Since Black plays the yearning lover (kind of a waste of Black), it's Alexander's duty to try to cut the film's sentiment. And Shallow Hal gets unforgivably sentimental. In a low moment, directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly overlay Neil Young's aching "After the Gold Rush" onto a hospital for disfigured kids.

It's not the subject matter that's creepy. In John Waters' films, the fat, ugly people ruled, putting the beautiful people in their place, sometimes with gunfire. In the Nutty Professor movies, Eddie Murphy found remarkable buoyancy in his fat suits. But the slack Shallow Hal piles on the fat-girl jokes and then smirks "just kidding." The locations are unidentifiable parts of some newly built Canadian city; only Neil LaBute has gone farther in finding gloom in antiseptic financial districts. It's even more gloomy to see a wild man like Black reduced to cuddling children to wring your heart.

SHALLOW HAL (PG-13; 113 min.), directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, written by Sean Moynihan and Bobby and Peter Farrelly, photographed by Russell Carpenter and starring Gywneth Paltrow and Jack Black, opens Friday at selected theaters.

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From the November 8-14, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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