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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.
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.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Played with.
- 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.
- Big Beautiful Woman: Hal eventually sees Rosemary as this.
- Big Eater
Rosemary: I'll have a double pizza burger, chili fries, and a vanilla milkshake.
- Bittersweet Ending
- 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 itself, and walks off munching on it like a Pringles chip.
- Dropped a Bridget On Him: The hostess at the restaurant turns out to be a transgendered person.
- Freudian Excuse: Hal is shallow because of his father's dying last words about appearance, his friend has a dog-like tail.
- Hair of Gold: Rosemary is kind and generous with attractive inner beauty.
- Hollywood Pudgy: Averted as Rosemary is really obese, not slightly bigger than the average Hollywood actress.
- Hypocrisy: It's obvious in both Hal and his friend's characters that they really shouldn't have high expectations from women, looking the way they do.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hal.
- Maurice could almost count too, given that he develops some depth as the film goes on.
- Meaningful Echo: "Cuckoo!"
- Mind Rape: Unknowingly hypnotized?!
- 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, 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.
- Oireland: Rosemary's father
- Running on All Fours
- 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.
- 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.