Starring: Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Alexander
Director: Peter Farrelly, Bob Farrelly
Running Time: 113 mins
Shallow Hal is an American film about a man, overly fixated on women’s appearances in his love exploits, who is given the ability to only see people’s inner beauty, leading him to fall madly in love with a woman he views as the perfect partner.
I absolutely loved this movie. Call it cheesy, call it ridiculous, call it whatever, but Shallow Hal is a film that throws up a hell of a lot of laughs, and has a lovely message at its heart. Sure, there are some things about it that might not stand up today, but with a charming performance from Gwyneth Paltrow and a hilarious leading turn from Jack Black, I had a whale of a time with Shallow Hal.
In fact, let’s start with the performances, because the acting in this movie really helps it stay a cut above just another fantasy rom-com. In the lead role, Jack Black is at his classic energetic best, with a zaniness that ties in nicely with a well-rounded character that’s both genuinely lovable, but still overflowing with flaws.
That’s also the case for Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s both really sweet on screen here, but never the perfect woman that Black believes her to be – even when he’s not caught up in his trance. In the main supporting role, Jason Alexander is a hell of a lot of fun as Black’s hot-headed right-hand man, and the film features one of the best celebrity cameos you’ll ever see from life guru Tony Robbins.
All of that plays into the fantastic energy that overflows throughout this movie, which is replicated in its sharp, joke-heavy screenplay, and its genuinely heartfelt story. Sure, Shallow Hal is a pretty silly film if you look at it on the surface, but just as its story tells, there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
The central romance between Black and Paltrow is irresistibly sweet from start to finish, and the fact that they’re both so open throughout the whole film means that you really feel for them when things don’t go right, or even when they do. That means, more than just being a film about laughs, Shallow Hal is a movie to get properly wrapped up in as a touching emotional story.
Ultimately, however, the comedy is the icing on the cake in this movie. There’s a dangerous tightrope that Shallow Hal walks in its use of what you might call fat jokes, but I think it manages to avoid going into overly offensive territory very well, more often than not deflecting whatever chaos back onto the main character himself.
The story’s heartfelt themes are of course fantastically oversimplified, but with that little dash of fantasy and so much fantastic humour, this strikes me as more of a fable than a classic rom-com, and that’s why I loved it so much. So, I’m giving Shallow Hal a 7.9 overall.