Shallow Hal (2001) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A shallow man falls in love with a 300-pound woman because of her inner beauty.

  • Following the advice of his dying father, Hal dates only women who are physically beautiful. One day, however, he runs into self-help guru Tony Robbins, who hypnotizes him into recognizing only the inner beauty of women. Hal thereafter meets Rosemary, a largely obese woman whom only he can see as a vision of loveliness. But will their relationship survive when Hal's equally shallow friend undoes the hypnosis?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Hal Larson (Jack Black), a superficial man and his equally-shallow friend Mauricio Wilson (Jason Alexander) both share an interest in beautiful women, and try to act cool and hip when around them, but most women interpret their wild dance moves as obnoxious and want nothing to do with them. At work, Hal's co-workers accuse him of being shallow and caring about nothing but physical appearance, and ask him "when he's gonna get it." Hal wants to see women for their inner beauty, but his appreciation of physical beauty gets in the way. While going to work one day, by an unexpected twist of fate, Hal meets the famous American life coach Tony Robbins while stuck in an elevator, and has a talk with him about himself and Tony. Robbins, understanding Hal's situation, hypnotizes him into seeing people's inner beauty, not their external selves. Subsequently he falls in love with Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), a woman who appears to him to look slender and beautiful due to her kind, generous nature, but is, in actuality, morbidly obese. At first, she accuses him of being childish, because she thinks he's pretending to date her, but later realises his feelings for her are genuine.

    His concerned friend Mauricio is worried about Hal's new taste in women, especially when he finds Hal dancing with a fat woman, thinking he's gone crazy. Mauricio believes what Robbins did to him was deceitful and wrong, and he talks to Robbins. One night, while Hal is on a date, Mauricio catches him after having confronted Robbins and says the trigger phrase,"Shallow Hal wants a gal", to break Hal's hypnosis. Discovering that his own sight had misled him, Hal, with Mauricio's assistance, begins to avoid Rosemary, whom he initially fails to recognize. She becomes melancholic without him around. Still distraught, Hal decides to get to know his neighbor, Jill, and the two get together at a restaurant and have a nice chat. Rosemary, suspicious of Hal's staying away, goes to the same restaurant where Hal and his friend are. Making assumptions about his relationship with Jill, she calls him a 'psycho' over the phone, which depresses Hal greatly. The day after, he meets a girl at a hospital where Rosemary works. Previously, due to Robbins' hypnosis, he saw her as a perfect looking little girl, he is now seeing her as a pretty little girl with severe burn marks on her face. This experience clarifies that he doesn't need hypnosis to see people's true inner beauty. Meanwhile, Rosemary decides to leave the country to re-join the Peace Corps. During his search for Rosemary to tell her the truth, he finds that Mauricio himself has his own reason for stopping Hal's hypnosis: he has a vestigial tail which has prevented him from ever getting close to a woman, and he was jealous that his friend found someone with whom he was happy. Hal eventually makes up with Mauricio, comes to terms with his feelings and his true love for Rosemary and decides to talk to her again. He arrives at his destination, the backyard of the Shanahans' mansion, where he makes up with Rosemary. He discovers she still loves him and decides to accompany her on her trip.

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