When Big Is Better...

Who says size matters?

Think Farrelly brothers, think big. The guys who’ve taken bitsy ideas that erupt from some ridiculous nebula, and pumped them up into universally acknowledged gigs (like the hair-gel episode from "There’s something About Mary") have built an envious reputation of sidelining the trampled track. And so it goes with "Shallow Hal".

Hal Larsen (Jack Black) is your average Adam, with a none-too-trim torso and an enormous appetite for buxom ladies in their early twenties. It’s like he suffers from a malnourished sensibility and it doesn’t help that his sidekick, Mauricio (Jason Alexander), is a degree more obnoxious and wears an unbelievable toupee which looks like black Astroturf.

The duo spend most evenings at local joints, arduously attempting to score for the night. Just about everyone who knows Hal thinks him no deeper than a puddle, and even his neighbour across the hall dodges any attempts at dating him, reckoning him too shallow. And like all miracles, Hal meets self-help guru Tony Robbins in an elevator and, after an impromptu one-on-one, comes away hypnotized with a radically different perspective on women.

He now begins to see unattractive women as gorgeous, and goes about winning them over, even as his pal Mauricio balks at his obviously-insane choices. When he falls in love with Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), he can only see her as a stunningly attractive woman with an engaging personality, and not like the rest of them see her. Just when things fall in line, Mauricio (who incidentally, breaks off with his bombshell girlfriend Lindy, because her index toe is longer than her big toe - I wonder if the movie should have been about Mauricio and his Lilliputian depth) convinces Robbins to snap Hal out of his new ideology and bring him back to his shallow self. 

It’s like a modern-day morality tale that tackles big issues with the same ease as the Farrelly's previous flicks. Only this time, it’s not spilling over with inane gags, though the serio-comical script is set off by some great acting. Jack Black hits it off well in his first lead in a feature, while Paltrow comes through with a dexterity that has already been well established in past winners. Worth a look!

This article was first published on 20 Feb 2002.