Shallow Hal: In praise of the beauty within
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - February 16, 2002 - 12:00am
What exactly is beautiful? Unfortunately for most Asians, particularly those belonging to the Malay race, our standard of beauty is pegged on Western standards. And we can only blame mass media, especially advertising, for painting this image of beautiful as somebody tall, fair and curvaceous.

"Iba na ang matangkad!"
– so proclaimed Aurora Pijuan in a 1973 television commercial, citing her having been fed Star Margarine as a kid as the reason why she shot up to her enviable height of 5’8" which supposedly became her edge over the rest of the contestants in the 1970 Miss International pageant.

More recently, we had this fair Filipino model on TV telling her Pinay brown sisters in the Block & White commercial, "Pumuti ako in just two weeks."

And if you turn the pages of this paper’s lifestyle/entertainment section, you’ll see ads of the Weigh Less Center (with Janice de Belen as their image model) and Marie-France encouraging women to try their weight reduction programs.

In the US, white Americans, of course, don’t have to worry about whitening their skin. Most of them, in fact, risk having skin cancer in their desire to have a tan.

Height is not a problem for them either because they are generally tall. Of course, there are also short Americans whom their tall American brothers mockingly call "shorty" or "half-pint." In general, however, Americans are as tall as tall can be.

Being curvaceous for women and buffed for men is another matter for Americans. In their desire to stay slim and shapely, most of them have already trained their taste buds to appreciate low-fat and non-fat brands of milk, butter, margarine, yogurt and ice cream. They also spend hours jogging or lifting weights at the gym in their desire to have trim bodies.

Basically, Americans seem to be more concerned about keeping fit than most Pinoys. Perhaps, it’s due to the fact that most of them have this tendency to become obese (what with all the cheap junk food there), if they don’t constantly watch their figures. And then, of course, they know very well that it’s easier for people with gorgeous bodies to get dates.

It’s the American people’s fascination for fabulous looks and sexy bodies that is the theme of Shallow Hal which opens in local movie theaters on Feb. 20.

In this film, the lead star (Jack Black) likes to date only the loveliest and shapeliest women. That wouldn’t have been a problem if he were a Tom Cruise or a Brad Pitt. The trouble is, he is not. He is stocky and has a bay window for a stomach.

One day, his outlook toward the world and its people changes when he is hypnotized into appreciating the inner beauty in a person. Even a fat lady in a circus would look like Penelope Cruz in his eyes – but only in his eyes. When he therefore meets an obese, but kind-hearted and compassionate woman, he sees her as Gwyneth Paltrow and falls in love with her. But only he and the movie audience see this woman as Gwyneth. The other characters in the film see instead a big, fat woman played by another actress. The time comes, however, when he snaps out of the spell and all of a sudden he no longer recognizes the woman he has deeply fallen in love with.

Shallow Hal
is directed by the Farrelly Brothers. But unlike the other Farrelly Brothers’ projects (like There’s Something About Mary, for instance), Shallow Hal is not a laugh-till-you-drop type of comedy.

No, it’s not that the jokes in the movie fall flat. Shallow Hal, you see, actually has a lot of serious moments that would make you ponder about how we deal with people around us based on their looks. More often than not, we forget about what’s inside a person’s heart. This is the message of Shallow Hal.

The movie, however, isn’t serious all throughout. It also has its comic moments. And you know how riotous the Farrelly Brothers can get when they turn comedic. My favorite is this scene where Gwyneth finishes off by herself a really humongous glass of milk shake in practically just one sip and Jack Black starts wondering how she did it – not knowing, of course, that Gwyneth is really a 300-lb. eating machine.

As Hal, Jack Black turns in an inspired performance from the start of the movie till the very end. And Gwyneth? Well, I’ve always resented her for defeating Cate Blanchet (who was magnificent in Elizabeth) at the 1999 Oscar Awards race. But with her charming performance in Shallow Hal, I’ve already forgiven her. Now, wasn’t that shallow of me?

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