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.
Beauty Inversion: A number of beautiful actresses wore makeup to appear ugly outside of Hal's "Inner Beauty Vision". The directors especially took flack for casting a skinny actress like Paltrow as a fat woman, but 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 rotund housemaid whom he initially mistakes 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. Which makes this more of a Clueless Aesop, really.
Compliment Backfire: When Hal meets Rosemary's mother he says, "I can see where Rosemary gets her figure." He intends it as a compliment because he sees both of them as slim women, not realising they're both quite overweight.
Cursed with Awesome: Basically, all the nicest and kindest people are identifiable on sight. Oh, and if you ever date one, they'll also be smoking hot.
Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: Rosemary cuts off a "sliver" of a cake that's about 1/3 as big as the whole cake, and walks off munching on it like a Pringles chip.
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: Mauricio 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.
Mauricio: I'm probably more immature than you, but at least I have a bigger willie. *pause* Hal: Yeah, bigger than a mouse's. Mauricio: What the hell was that? Hal: I said your willie's— Mauricio: I heard what you said, but it took you, like, eight seconds. You can't come back with a comeback after eight seconds. You got three. Five, tops. That's why they call it a "quip," not a "slooowwwwwp."
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 Mauricio uses to break the hypnosis.
Fridge Brilliance: Hal, who is still seeing people for their inner beauty (or lack thereof), sees this very kind transgender 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.