Shallow Hal [2001]

Coming from the creators of Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary, the sensitivity of Shallow Hal seems like a minor miracle. The codirecting Farrelly brothers haven't forsaken their lowbrow inclinations, but this clever romantic fantasy offers unexpected substance with the same comedic effrontery that made the Farrellys famous. Their antihero is Hal (Jack Black), whose fixation on beautiful women is reversed (after an encounter with self-help guru Tony Robbins) so he can see only the inner beauty of "undesirables" like his new girlfriend Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), now gorgeous in Hal's eyes despite being grossly obese. The movie's handling of this conundrum is sweetly sincere, poking fun at social prejudices while validating those (overweight, homely, disabled) who are often heartbroken by Hal's brand of shallowness. The concept won't hold up to scrutiny (i.e., the movie trades one set of stereotypes for another), but Shallow Hal works as an often hilarious reminder that physical beauty is only skin deep. --Jeff Shannon

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