Jack Black plays Hal Larson, who, unconsciously traumatized by his father's death at age nine, is one of the shallowest men in the world. Until one day when, trapped in an elevator with Tony Robbins, he is unknowingly hypnotized so that, every time he meets someone new from that point onward, he will see their "inner beauty" instead of their real appearance.Hilarity Ensues.Most notably, he meets a woman named Rosemary, played by Gwyneth Paltrow who, to him, looks like the most beautiful woman in the world because of her great inner beauty. In reality, however, she's extremely fat. It's not the only cognitive dissonance — far from it — but it's the one that made the trailers.
Shallow Hal provides examples of:
As Himself: Tony Robbins, Joshua "Li'iBoy" Shintani
In this movie it's not so much Beauty equals goodness than 'Goodness equals beauty', where the better a person you are the more attractive Hal perceives you as.
Beauty Inversion: A number of beautiful actresses wore makeup to make them appear ugly outside of Hal's "Inner Beauty Vision". The director especially took flack for casting a skinny actress like Paltrow as a fat woman, but he explained that it was easier for Paltrow to fat up (with makeup and a fatsuit) than it was for a heavy actress to slim down.
Brawn Hilda: After Hal loses his Inner Beauty Vision, the robust housemaid that he initially confuses for Rosemary is named Helga.
Broken Aesop: True Beauty Is On The Inside? Kind of undermined by Rosemary being morbidly obese. Her eating habits are incredibly unhealthy and she's likely going to have a heart attack. There's a difference between not conforming to Hollywood's vision of beauty and doing what's best for your own health
Fridge Brilliance: Like many who've struggled with their weight and dieting, Rosemary just gave up as she stated that "no matter what I eat I'm always the same weight".
The entire premise of the movie is that Hal is seeing a person's inner beauty, thus ugly women appear incredibly attractive to him and beautiful women appear incredibly ugly. Unfortunate Implications aside, it still comes across as making judgements based on physical appearances.
Not precisely true. GOOD people appear beautiful and BAD people appear ugly. It's not a case of let's just switch up people's looks. Katrina, for example, actually isn't very bad looking at all, just a little nerdy, but due to being a sweet and caring girl Hal initially sees her as classically beautiful. However, Hal still does base his initial opinion of women on their looks and is continually surprised that these attractive women are also good people.
Roger Ebert puts forth a partial justification for this in his review, pointing out that movies, being a primarily visual storytelling medium, would use a visual method of showing us how Hal perceives people now.
All Hal thought was that Tony Robbins did something to help him "score better with the ladies." He had no idea that it literally changed his vision.
Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Hal's friend gives a practically perfect girl the cold shoulder, passing up an opportunity to see a Beatles reunion while George Harrison was still alive, ostensibly because one of her second toes is slightly longer than normal. Turns out however that it's because he's ashamed of his own elongated tailbone.
Money, Dear Boy: Gwyneth Paltrow was quoted saying that this was the only reason she did the movie.
Running on All Fours: The character of Walt, played by Rene Kirby who has spina bifida and really does walk on all fours in real life.
Sliding Scale of Beauty: quite notably scores pretty evenly around the scale. The nastier girls (and Rosemary in Hal's eyes) are very pretty, while some of the characters are just average or flawed average, perhaps flawed pretty, and some of the nice girls are honestly ugly.
It isn't limited to females: Rosemary's two guy friends from the Peace Corps are overweight and/or unattractive yet are seen as intimidatingly handsome to a hypnotized Hal.
Title Drop: "Shallow Hal wants a gal", the incantation Hal's friend uses to break the hypnosis.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The Shanahans. Mrs Shanahan is actually quite overweight too but still prettier than her husband.
Fridge Brilliance: Hal, who is still seeing people for their inner beauty (or lack thereof), sees this very kind transgendered person as a very cute, and even pretty, young woman, despite most people usually seeing her as a, well, freak, as Hal seemed to think after the curse was broken. Made even more brilliant when you think about how he's viewing a biological male as a female on the inside.