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.
This film provides examples of:
As Himself: Tony Robbins, Joshua "Li'iBoy" Shintani.
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.
Rosemary: I'll have a double pizza burger, chili fries, and a vanilla milkshake.
Hal: Nicely done! I'll have the exact same thing.
Bitter Sweet Ending: Rosemary, still hurt from Hal's recent behavior and actions, plans on going away on a Peace Corps mission even after Hal pleads for her not to go. So he decides to go with her instead.
Brawn Hilda: After Hal loses his Inner Beauty Vision, the rotund housemaid whom he initially mistakes for Rosemary is named Helga.
Broken Aesop: This film with an intended Aesop about how people should not be so shallow and judge people on the kind of person they are, not by how they look on the outside, has so many holes in this Aesop that it's something of a textbook case for reviewers.
The first problem is that Rosemary, the main love interest and the intended study in how it's what's inside that counts, isn't born deformed; she isn't even Hollywood Pudgy, Hollywood Homely or even a Big Beautiful Woman; she's morbidly obese. We're talking on the verge of a heart attack any second. Such an example backfires in an Aesop about inner beauty, because this sort of obesity is in need of medical help.
The second problem is that the movie misses its mark in arguing that Hal has been "de-hypnotized" so that he only sees the inner beauty of people, because the spell shows people to be physically attractive to Hal when they're supposed to be demonstrating that a person has a good personality—something that is difficult to tell by looking at the person. Hal doesn't realize that Rosemary isn't actually a petite blone; hence he's not really less shallow at all. They get points for acknowledging this one, though; when the hypnotism spell is broken later on, Hal realizes that his girlfriend is morbidly obese but ultimately decides to stay with her because he's come to like her as a person during his experience, so he does get over his shallowness by the end.
The third, and possibly worst problem with the movie, is that nearly all of its humor consists of jokes making fun of fat people.
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.
Double Standard: Looking the way they do, Hal and Mauricio really shouldn't have high expectations from women. They do give them both Freudian Excuses for their hypocrisy, though; Hal is traumatized by watching his father die when he was young, who demanded on his death bed that his son be utterly perfectionist when judging women. Mauricio is redirecting a bottled-up inferiority complex. He has a physical deformity himself that he can't get rid of (a vestigial tail at the base of his spine), but has chosen to see it as a weakness.
Hal is shallow because of his father's dying words about appearance.
Mauricio is shallow because of his vestigial tail, which shames him into avoiding meaningful relationships.
Gaussian Girl: Inverted and Subverted. After Hal's hypnosis is worn off, he puts Vaseline on his eyes to so that he won't be able to see Rosemary clearly. His vision is so blurry, he can't tell if Rosemary is attractive (to him) or not.
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.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Mauricio after he de-hypnotizes Hal. Made worse by the fact that he lied to Tony Robbins about Hal getting fired in order to get the words needed to break the hypnosis.
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. Rosemary's two guy friends from the Peace Corps are overweight and/or unattractive yet are seen as intimidatingly handsome to a hypnotized Hal and the kids from the hospital turn out to be burn victims.
Title Drop: "Shallow Hal wants a gal", the incantation Mauricio uses to break the hypnosis.