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Shallow Hal (2002)
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly.
Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Alexander, Joe Viterelli, Rene Kirby, Bruce McGill, Tony Robbins.
113 minutes
1st February 2002
12 cert camera
Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black
Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black in "Shallow Hal"
The Farrelly Brothers have displayed little taste for subtlety in their careers, so it's a surprise to find an unexpected sincerity lurking beneath the surface of their latest farce.
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Ostensibly a comedy about a shallow nerd captivated by a 300lb rhinoceros, it's really a parable about not judging people on appearances - albeit one laced with the sort of juvenile gags which made "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb & Dumber" such guilty pleasures.

Hal Larson (Black) has grown up living by his father's deathbed dictum that beauty is the only thing that matters. But all that changes when he meets real-life TV guru Tony Robbins in a stalled elevator and is hypnotised. From now on, Tony decrees, Hal will see the inner beauty of every woman he meets.

And so it proves when Rosemary, the grossly overweight Peace Corps volunteer he encounters in a department store, is transformed in his mind into a gorgeous willowy blonde (Paltrow).

The humour comes from everyone's appalled reactions to Rosemary's obesity and Hal's blithe obliviousness to it. She may wear knickers the size of parachutes and break chairs in restaurants, but to him - and us - she's a 24-carat cutie.

Only in the latter half do we see Gwynnie in her much-debated fat suit - by which time the moral has been hammered home with all the delicacy of a rampaging sumo wrestler.

Hilarious in parts, sickeningly sentimental in others, "Shallow Hal" has the Farrellys trying to expand their range, with only mildly successful results.

"Shallow Hal" opens in UK cinemas on Friday 1st February 2002.

Reviewed by Neil Smith , BBC Films

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