Shallow Hal (2001)

Rating: **
Cast: Jack Black, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jason Alexander

A somewhat enlightening, but utterly depressing film about a superficial sexist pig named Hal (an impressively annoying Jack Black) who experiences a change in perspective when he starts seeing peoples' inner beauty outwardly reflected. This naturally sets up numerous moments of awkward discomfort as Hal starts scoring with all sorts of physically unattractive women. His life is just about perfect when he meets the girl of his dreams, a smart and funny knock-out named Rosemary played by a shockingly attractive Gwenyth Paltrow. What Hal doesn't realize is that she's a behemoth of a woman, and doesn't understand why all of his friends cringe at the sight of her. Things get really nasty when Hal's spell is lifted and he faces the horror of what the new people in his life really look like. But through it all, Hal finally manages to grow beyond his superficiality and makes a noble and heartfelt life decision.

First of all, for a film that promotes inner beauty and seeing beyond the veil, it is utterly cruel in its non-stop barrage of fat jokes and jabs at ugly women. Despite the overall message of the film, it just leaves an unsettling bad taste in one's mouth. Jack Black gives an outstanding performance as the despicable Hal, and amazingly manages to pull off some truly heartfelt moments that actually make you feel for the poor bastard. Hal's best friend (Jason Alexander) is even MORE dislikable than Hal, and he nearly steals the show with his crude antics. But it's probably Gwenyth Paltrow's portrayal of Rosemary that is most noteworthy, as she just oozes with insecurity and low self esteem. She even dons a full body prosthetic for her physical representation that is tragic and frightfully realistic. And it doesn't make me feel good about myself that given the inner beauty message of the film and the volume of tasteless humor, my first thoughts on the film were "gee, that Gwenyth Paltrow is really hot..."