As is common in the films of Bobby and Peter Farrelly, shock value through displays of conduct normally associated with deviant behavior are present in their 2001 film “Shallow Hal,” but in lesser degrees than in other films by the duo. The lead character, Hal (portrayed by Jack Black), is persuaded by his father’s dying wish that Hal only pursue physically attractive women. After being hypnotized by Tony Robbins to only see inner beauty, however, Hal begins to view the morbidly obese Rosemary as an extraordinarily beautiful woman (portrayed in Hal’s mind by Gwyneth Paltrow).
Unlike their earlier film, “There’s Something About Mary,” in which “gross” representations were prevalent throughout, such scenes in “Shallow Hal” revolve mainly around the exceedingly overweight Rosemary, who is depicted in a number of situations designed to emphasize her girth, for example, the scene in the canoe in which Rosemary’s weight forces the other end of the canoe, where Hal sits, to rise up well above the level of the water. Similarly, Rosemary’s decision to jump into the swimming pool provides the opportunity to exploit her weight for laughs once again by showing the scale of the splash that results.
Whereas much of the Farrelly brothers’ humor is traditionally derived from “gross-out” scenes, “Shallow Hal,” beyond exploiting for entertainment value the physical dimensions of the overweight Rosemary, is fairly restrained in “gross representations.” In fact, beyond the sight of the overweight woman jumping into a pool or rowing a canoe, the only really gross scene involves Jason Alexander’s character, Mauricio, who turns out to be physically endowed with a “tail” formed from his enormously deformed spine.
In short, for a Farrelly brothers production, “Shallow Hal,” lacks the scale of disgusting images prevalent in some of their other films.