In Hollywood they have a saying that goes something like, “if you can’t think of anything funny, put a movie star in a fat suit.” On some magazine I saw on a news stand they had another saying that goes, “Fat suits: the new blackface.”
It’s true too. I mean the less acceptable it becomes to make fun of the gays, the more people need somebody else to pick on. So they start pickin on these big folks.
I don’t know why but for some reason people think it’s hilarious to see a celebrity made up to look all fat. They did it on Big Momma’s House. They did it on one of those sitcoms that is popular now, I believe it was either Friends or Cheers. The one about the kids in the apartment who have relationships, etc. Also Eddie Murphy did it. He thought it was so funny he based two movies around it. And within each movie he had to play four or five different fat characters in order to try to fill the whole movie with laughs.
Well to be fair SHALLOW HAL is not really that same kind of movie. NUTTY PROFESSOR was a movie where they have fat joke after fat joke, and then in one scene they tell you to feel sorry for poor Eddie because everyone makes fun of him for being fat. Then in the very next scene he’s stuffing a fistful of M&Ms in his mouth and you laugh at him for being fat again. Also there is farting.
I think SHALLOW HAL is the opposite though, not only because there’s no farting but because it has a sincere message to care about some gal’s “inner beauty” and not her outer fat suit. The story is about some asshole (jack black) who gets trapped on an elevator with the tall dude from the infomercials, and he gets hypnotized to only see people’s inner beauty. So next thing you know he meets a really smart and wonderful gal named Rosemary who to everyone else weighs 300 pounds but to him is skinny little Gwyneth Paltrow. There are only a handful of fat jokes and even those are arguable, because whatever humor is there comes more from Hal’s confusion at what is going on and not from poor Rosemary’s size. For example she strips for him and, to his amazement, throws him a giant pair of underwear. So he says, “Get over here, Houdini!”
And in the end, which I’m just gonna give away, he does find out what’s going on, and the hypnotic spell trance is broken, and after some initial fear he realizes that he does love that big old gal and he goes for it. I mean they don’t try some bullshit where she magically becomes thin or he becomes fat or who knows what some fuckwad in hollywood coulda come up with for this one.
Still you gotta wonder, would they really trust an audience with this kind of ending if it WASN’T Gwyneth Paltrow under the suit? I mean, what if they got an actress who really was that size to play the real Rosemary? Sadly I think people would be disgusted by it and wouldn’t care about the love.
Or how about this. Why does Gwyneth have to be so homely in the fat suit? What if, when Hal finds out she’s fat, he realizes that she’s still kinda hot? That’s something you don’t see.
By the way it was good to see the infomercial dude in this movie. I’m surprised more informercial stars haven’t crossed over to the big screen the way wrestlers and other TV stars do. I’m sure if she doesn’t go to jail for fraud before her 15 minutes are up, Miss Cleo will get a few roles. Did you know that she still swears to be a shaman born in Jamaica, even though it’s well documented that she’s a stage actress from Seattle who ripped off a community center by telling her friends she needed to borrow the center’s money to treat herself for bone cancer and/or sickle cell?
You know who really fuckin creeps me out is that skinny bodybuilder dude. You know the guy I’m talkin about. He’s advertising some exercise machine for the abs and his whole chest is totally chiseled. But he has a skinny little veiny chicken neck. He looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger as ethiopian heroin junkie. I mean this guy just does not look natural. I know I just watched Shallow Hal and should be looking for the inner beauty, but this freak should only be allowed to advertise on radio.
Anyway, back to the fat suit issue. Although this was marketed as just another fat suit movie, I think it is actually sort of a response to them. Not only are there not many fat jokes, but every time something happens to Rosemary because of her weight it is portrayed as absolutely humiliating to her, and the audience is made to empathize with her. There are not really jokes at her expense. But ultimately the problem is this. This picture is not funny. Not like it fails at being funny, it’s kind of like THE WASH, it just doesn’t have many jokes, like it’s not even trying to be funny. Not enough to make it worth watching, anyway. So as a public service here are the funny and/or mildly amusing parts so you don’t have to watch it:
- Hal is introduced to a man who is obviously of Hawaiian descent. Hal says, “Oh, we had a Hawaiian guy in our high school. He went out for hockey, it was fuckin hilarious!”
- Hal’s best friend, played by Jason Alexander, appears to have painted over his bald spot with spray paint or shoe polish or that shit they have the infomercial for, but nobody every says anything about it.
- Mr. Alexander’s character admits to Hal that he is very self conscious because he has an unusual birth defect. “I have a tail.” Hal says, “You mean you have a story?”
- One minor character is some Baywatch style hottie, but her personality is bad so when Hal looks at her he sees an old hag wearing a baby doll shirt with the Playboy bunny logo on it.
I guess you had to be there. Don’t bother, though.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.