Skin Deep
Shallow Hal
Review by Ross Anthony

What an odd little film "Shallow Hal" be.

Despite their own physical limitations, Hal and best bud Jason Alexander (with a hairpiece) seek only the most physically-perfect, movie-star gorgeous women at local dance clubs etc. Jason even disregards a potential "hottie" based on unusual toe size. Their obsession with perfection guarantees depression.

Into this hopeless cycle, drops psychological seminarist Anthony J. Robbins, "I didn't hypnotize him - I de-hypnotized him!" Robbins gives Hal the ability to see right through the flesh to the heart and soul of women around him. So, no matter their "real" physical appearances, Hal will "see" golden-hearted women (and men) as handsome/ravishing people on the outside as well. Of course, Hal's friends don't perceive things the same way.

Eventually, Hal falls head over heals for Rosemary who he sees as Gwyneth Paltrow. Rosemary, at a chair-breaking weight, can't understand his attraction for her. And he can't Shallow Halunderstand her lack of physical self-esteem. Obviously, the stage is set for many laughs and the film does pay off in that department. Oddly, along its merry way toward making a strong statement that real beauty lives in the heart, "Shallow Hal" ribs those less-than-gorgeous, especially the overweight. (Some viewers may find that unsettling.)

The first ten to fifteen minutes (save for the opening sequence) are rather stiff, awkward, and slightly off the mark, but after Hal meets Robbins (a very good scene) the film itself seems to be hypnotized toward success as well. Jack Black (in his first lead role) performs well while Gwyneth does a great job of making us believe that she believes she's not gorgeous. (Loved the flat-liner title credit and crew shots at end as well.) A strong B+, "What Women Want" sort of flick.

Btw, impressed with Robbins' absolutely convincing role as the hypnotist/mind-guru, I read up on him in the press notes: "Anthony J. Robbins (as himself) is the nation's foremost authority on the psychology of peak performance and personal, professional and organizational turnaround - an identity he has established through his ability to consistently help individuals and organizations create measurable results over the last twenty years."

Hal: "If you can see it and smell it and feel it, who's to say it's not real?"

  • Shallow Hal. Copyright © 2001. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Alexander, Joe Viterelli, Susan Ward, Anthony J. Robbins.
  • Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly.
  • Written by Sean Moynihan & Bobby and Peter Farrelly.
  • Produced by Bradley Thomas, Charles B. Wessler and Bobby and Peter Farrelly at 20th Fox.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 30-May-2007 22:19:33 PDT