Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Hall Pass and another interesting poster

Following on from our discussion about The Company Men, here’s another interesting case study of publicity wonks in action. Hall Pass, the latest film from the Farrelly Brothers, is released today. It’s not very good. Like too many of their …

Fri, Mar 11, 2011, 22:58

   

Following on from our discussion about The Company Men, here’s another interesting case study of publicity wonks in action. Hall Pass, the latest film from the Farrelly Brothers, is released today. It’s not very good. Like too many of their recent films, the cheekiness is overwhelmed by sentimentality and the occasional rudeness fails to distract from the overriding conservatism. How the hell are they going to sell that to the UK and Ireland? With Stephen Merchant. That’s how. Observe the main poster for these territories.

As you may be aware, the film concerns two suburban rogues who, after ogling one too many passing women, are allowed a week’s freedom from marriage. Inevitably, it doesn’t go too well. Never fear. This image promises that the perennially amusing Stephen, partner and equal of Ricky Gervais, will be always at their side. Do not be deceived. Merchant is just one of four or five buddies who lurk in the background. It is certainly true that (not saying much) he has the funniest scene in the film. At the screening I attended, every critic paused, halfway aloft, during a skit Stephen delivers over the end credits and, as one, turned and said: “That was the only reason to watch the bloody film.”

Nonetheless, his role is, probably, about the seventh or eighth largest in the film (far smaller than a surprisingly awful turn from the normally reliable Richard Jenkins). You might as well construct a poster for Withnail and I featuring Paul McGann, Richard E Grant and the old lady from the teashop. It’s not worth getting fussed about. Stephen is in the film and he is funny. But the cynicism is quite striking. It hardly needs to be said that he’s not on the American poster.

The good news is that this means the suits recognise Steve’s talent and will find him plenty more amusing cameos. He was also the best thing in Tooth Fairy. Mind you, it’s not something you’d want on your tombstone. “Here’s lies Stephen Merchant. In 2010, he upstaged The Rock.”

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