Despite the Farrelly brothers' insistence that this film is a fervently "pro-fat" look at corrupt societal standards, Shallow Hal amounts to little but a series of cruel jokes glamorizing the very message it attempts to debunk. Almost excruciatingly kind, the morbidly obese Rosemary is a champion of the less fortunate, gladly opting to volunteer in the local hospital's pediatric burn unit when she's not swamped with work from her other job -- the Peace Corps. Unlike Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary, however, Rosemary's perfection is buried within an expanse of flesh. Shunned by society, her spiritual appearance can only be seen by a hypnotized Hal (Jack Black). Inner beauty, apparently, is the reed-thin Gwyneth Paltrow. Herein lies Shallow Hal's fatal flaw -- the message is not that individuals deserve respect at any size, but rather despite it. After all, there may be an ultra-thin blonde goddess hidden beneath all that extra skin. Is the audience to gather that a thin person with a less wholesome personality than Rosemary's is fat on the inside, and therefore ugly? This arguably underweight definition of beauty may have been excusable if the directors of this film hadn't made their money by humiliating the community they had climbed atop a soapbox to defend. Though there are a few sparsely dispersed bathroom jokes throughout Shallow Hal, the vast majority of the "gross out" humor is an unending stream of stereotypical fat jokes made at Rosemary's expense -- fatsuits, it would appear, are the new blackface. When it comes to grappling with inner beauty versus outward appearances, pass up Shallow Hal and choose the far superior Shrek.
by Tracie Cooper review