a critiQal film review Shallow Hal (2001)

Plot: Hal (Black) dates only women who are physically beautiful. One day, however, he runs into self-help guru Tony Robbins, who hypnotizes him into recognizing only the inner beauty of women. Hal thereafter meets Rosemary (Paltrow), a grossly obese woman whom only he can see as a vision of loveliness. But will their relationship survive when Hal's equally shallow friend (Alexander) undoes the hypnosis?

583 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 54s)
  • ...while the main character sees the "inner beauty" in everyone, even he would be hard-pressed to find something in this.

This is a movie that tries to hard to be politically correct. There is a big problem with beauty not being in the eye of the beholder, but more in the holder of the magazine, nowadays. Shallow Hal tries to correct this, but tries to push it too hard onto the viewer. It would have been a better movie if they had toned it down a bit.

The plot, well, let’s see. The whole Anthony Robbins schtick is a bit farfetched, to say the least. Just by saying something, he lets a man see the inner beauty, and totally defies all of his senses? C’mon.

The ending isn’t as good as it could be, either.

Also, Shallow Hal tends to make fun of grossly overweight people at the same time as it tries to present a moral to the whole story. It tends to conflict itself at times. They play some of the scenes as jokes on overweight people (prime example: the pool scene, with the kid in the tree), and then they totally switch tracks and put the overweight Paltrow into situations to make the audience feel for her. Pick one, don’t be so wishy-washy. Sheesh.

The characters are not as well-acted as they could have been. Jack Black is not bad as Hal, but by the end, he hasn’t convinced you enough that he isn’t as shallow anymore. Like most of Shallow Hal, he’s there for the laughs, not for the deeper message the film pretends to be trying to showcase. He’s also a testament to how different overweight males are treated than their female counterparts. He doesn’t even acknowledge he’s overweight at any point in the film, and yet his character refuses to date anything but “perfect 10s”. Yet a woman with an extra pound or two on her has to settle for something less than perfect in a guy.

Gwyneth Paltrow actually does a great job of being an overweight person, even when she isn’t overweight. She’s empathetic and kind of sad, even when they are playing the scene for laughs.

Jason Alexander is a bit ill-used, playing a character remarkably similar to the one he played back in Pretty Woman. He has expanded a lot as an actor since Pretty Woman (ie “Seinfeld” (TV)), and putting him back in a similar role is a bit of a setback for him.

The special effects were pretty good. The best one is when Rosemary (in her Gwyneth persona) and Hal are walking together and she walks by a window. The reflection is the big woman she turns out to be. It’s a nice effect, and it’s kind of a background thing, so doesn’t take over the scene. If you look away you might miss it, but it’s one of the best effects of the movie.

All in all, Shallow Hal is one of those movies that is based around a moral, and pushes it just a bit too much. I’m not really sure how they could have toned it down a bit, since it was the basis of the whole movie, but they tried too hard.

Even then, they couldn’t decide if overweight people are supposed to be made fun of, or people to be sorry for.

Neither is the case. The “inner beauty” is what matters, and it shouldn’t matter what other people think, as Anthony Robbins says. However, this movie doesn’t have much “inner beauty” to see. It’s almost as shallow as Hal, but a lot more preachy.

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