I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry makes for a great trailer but a lousy movie. First time I saw the coming attractions preview, I laughed out loud. There were Adam Sandler and Kevin James as macho firefighters trying to convince people that they were a gay couple. The stars could be seen marching in a gay pride parade wearing T-shirts that read “Mrs. Pitt” and “Mrs. Timberlake.” Funny, right? Some of the other clips in that trailer were equally funny. It’s a whole different experience when you’re sitting in a theater watching the full-length movie, though. About 30 minutes in, I realized that Chuck & Larry had only one joke, which it was intent on repeating ad nauseum. And worse, the tone of the humor was very objectionable.
Sandler and James play New York City firemen, Chuck Levine and Larry Valentine. Chuck is a womanizer; Larry’s a widower. When Larry’s pension is threatened by the fact that he has no beneficiary (his kids don’t count), he convinces Chuck to pose as his domestic life partner to collect the benefits. Chuck isn’t wild about the idea, but he owes Larry, who saved his life on the job. Since it doesn’t seem to involve much more than rooming together and having some of his mail delivered to Larry’s house, Chuck agrees.
Then a fraud investigator named Clint Fitzer (Steve Buscemi) arrives to check up on them. He suspects the two are not really gay. To avoid prosecution, Chuck and Larry turn to attorney Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel) to represent them. She, of course, doesn’t know they are scamming the system, and therefore provides them with advice on how to legally justify their same-sex relationship. The situation is threatened by the fact that Chuck is extremely attracted to Alex. The two become friends, with Alex revealing her romantic troubles to her new “gay” friend. The movie continually finds ways to tempt Chuck, including the invention of a lame excuse for him to fondle her breasts. (Because this happens all the time in real life, right?)
My best friend had a funny response when he first saw the Chuck & Larry trailer: he said it looked like “Three’s Company” with two Jack Trippers. It’s true – the movie is filled with scenes in which Sandler and James pretend to be gay and work overtime to keep others from discovering their charade, just as John Ritter did for so many years on that sitcom. On a surface level, it sounds promising. Sandler and James are both really funny guys, and the premise has the potential to be really satirical. Given the fact that Oscar winners Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Sideways) are listed among the writers, you could reasonably go in expecting a smart, insightful comedy.
Except there’s nothing funny about it. (Well, Jessica Biel as a lawyer is kind of funny, but that’s about all.) The movie has been pumped full of cheap jokes and broad stereotypes. Consider that all the gay characters in the film are portrayed this way: they lisp when they talk, they dance around and squeal when happy, and they dress flamboyantly whenever possible. There is not one gay character in this film who doesn’t feel completely over-exaggerated. Perhaps this story would have worked with some perspective, or with the ambition to comedically explore our society’s debate over gay marriage, which is about as hot button an issue as you can get. However, the humor never rises above the level of Chuck and Larry arguing about which one is the “man” and which one is the “woman” in the relationship. This movie has more bad gay jokes in two hours than a whole season of “Will and Grace” episodes.
What’s truly astonishing – and most egregious – is that I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry revels in gay stereotypes and allegedly funny uses of derogatory words such as “faggot,” then tries to squeeze out a pro-tolerance message at the end, as if this somehow justifies the film’s rampant homophobia. The whole thing rings as insincerely as an Isaiah Washington apology.
Gays aren’t the only ones who get it. Asian-Americans ought to be protesting Universal Pictures for allowing Rob Schneider’s incredibly racist portrayal of an Asian minister to remain in this movie. The actor wears oversize glasses, a bowl-haircut, and prosthetics to make his eyes severely slanted. He then mispronounces words, as in an extended joke about the wedding “lings.” It is so offensive that it almost makes Mickey Rooney’s Asian landlord in Breakfast at Tiffany’s look like a model of political correctness in comparison.
You go to a comedy to laugh and, with two or three exceptions, I did not laugh at this film because it made me feel uncomfortable and annoyed. The only good things to say are that Steve Buscemi and Dan Aykroyd (as the guys’ fire chief) have a few amusing moments, and the two main stars remain inherently likeable even in this middle of all this nasty content. Mostly, I sat there in disbelief that a major motion picture with such big-name stars could be so mean-spirited and cheap in its humor. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry isn’t edgy or pointed or satiric; it is just offensive, and the concluding message of tolerance rings false considering everything that has preceded it.
( 1/2 out of four)
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is rated PG-13 for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language and drug references. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.
To learn more about this film, check out AskMen.com: I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
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