Shallow Hal (2001) — The fat movie

“Be gone, devil!”

Justin’s rating: Hollywood’s weirdest fashion trend has got to be the fat suit

Justin’s review: Trust me, if you’re thinking about seeing this movie, you probably have very little idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Not an inkling, neither a nagging notion, my friend! I mean, you see “From the directors of There’s Something About Mary” and you think painful zippers and earmuffs and hair gel. Then you see Gweneth Paltrow in a fat suit, and you think The Nutty Professor. It’s become so vogue in Hollywood to wear fat suits that I wouldn’t be shocked if Arnold didn’t don one for a chubby Terminator in the next installment. But really, none of these preconceptions are even close to what you’re going to get — but I almost don’t care what you expect, because if you do see Shallow Hal, you’re going to get a weirdly good experience.

My mom, who saw this with me and my dad, kept calling it “The Fat Movie.” As in, “Do we have to see The Fat Movie?” and “Yeah, Lora, I’m taking Justin to see The Fat Movie.” In an ironic twist, we saw it at a movie theater where we could also eat dinner. So as we’re chowing down on burgers and buffalo wings, we’re watching The Fat Movie. Ah, I love this country.

Shallow Hal stars Jack “brought to you by the letter D” Black as Hal, a somewhat chubby dude himself who always dates way out of his range. His (and his friend’s) sole standard for women come from their looks, which makes the moral point of the movie about two minutes in. Hal subsequently gets locked into an elevator with motivational speaker Tony Robbins (who looks like a freakish version of Ben Affleck — just try not to stare at his deformed head!), who promptly hypnotizes Hal into seeing the “inner beauty” of women instead of their outside.

This is the gimmick of the film. Nod your head so I know I haven’t lost you yet.

So naturally Hal starts hitting on all these women he thinks are beautiful, but who are in fact ugly/deformed/fat girls with good souls. The whole gimmick of him seeing inner beauty doesn’t hold up well under close examination. I mean, he’s still liking a girl for how she looks, it’s just that he’s been fooled. In other words, HE’S STILL SHALLOW; his standards haven’t changed, just his perception.

Also, the film doesn’t really allow for the possibility that a pretty or handsome person could be good inside, and vice-versa. But oh well, this is all lubrication in the plot combustion engine so that Hal falls in love with Rosemary (Gweneth “the polar opposite of fat” Paltrow), the most beautiful woman in the world. Who weighs about 500 pounds.

Now if you’ve seen Me, Myself and Irene or Dumb and Dumber, you might be really bracing for the onslaught of fat jokes from here on out. And there are some, but what is utterly surprising is that scarcely any joke is made at the mean expense of the fat or ugly or deformed person. As Hal becomes a very likable character who woos the grossly obese Rosemary (who, for the most part, we see as her slimmer version), The Fat Movie becomes a really warm-hearted story about the need to be loved and to accept people for who they truly are. It celebrates in the strange-looking in our society and their charming natures.

Now, you may laugh at me for saying this, but this would make an *excellent* date movie. Really. It’s all about sensitive feelings and introspection and other happy junk that girls like to read about in Cosmo. And yet, it still has a few gags and plot devices to appeal to men. Plus, Shallow Hal contains one of the most Webster moments captured on film this past year. For those of you unfamiliar with the Webster TV show, it had an audience “awwwwww” track that played every time the too-cute kid Webster did something too cute. I really can’t spoil this moment for you, but it about breaks your heart when it gets there.

The Fat Movie is good. Justin has proclaimed it to be, and therefore it is.

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