Mark Reviews Movies

I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK & LARRY

 Star (out of 4)

Director: Dennis Dugan

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Dan Aykroyd, Ving Rhames, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language and drug references)

Running Time: 1:55

Release Date: 7/20/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

My trusty baseball cap comes in handy occasionally. On sunny days, it keeps the sun out of my eyes. On rainy days, the precipitation off my head. And while watching I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, it hid my disbelieving eyes from the screen, because I simply could not take any more of its grating humor involving backward stereotypes, its hypocritical and heavy-handed message-making, or its subtle-as-a-brick-dropped-from-a-skyscraper sentimentality. I seriously hope that screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor were forced against their respective wills to write this schizophrenic nonsense or that Barry Fanaro, the third screenwriter, took their script and transformed it into this beast that seems like the failed pilot of a sitcom. There could be opportunity for satire here in showing the nature of homophobia as a joke, but the humor is too broad. It might have worked as a study of two men growing from ignorance to enlightenment, but the shift is so sudden and so unnatural, that's out the window as well. When the movie finally attempts to have a redeeming message, it's not as much a case of trying to eat your cake and have it too as it is trying to walk with your foot jammed firmly in your mouth.

Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and Larry Valentine (Kevin James) are firefighters for the FDNY in Brooklyn. Chuck's a ladies' man, as we see when a woman comes to the firehouse to complain about him sleeping with her sister. She shows up, and Chuck tries to convince them to kiss, which they're about to do before the bell goes off. Yes, Chuck's a chauvinist, but the women are fighting over him as he leaves. So the movie's not much better. There's a fire, and Chuck and Larry run into the building to save a woman's son, who happens to be an obese man who cannot get out of bed. Chuck suggests they chop him into pieces and tosses insults at the poor guy before he and Larry save him, which leads to a fart joke. So Chuck likes to make fun of people's problems, and so does the movie. Anyway, Larry wants his kids to be the beneficiaries of his pension plan, should anything happen to him, but he discovers he can only do that in certain circumstances, like if he were to get remarried. After Larry saves Chuck's life, he offers to do anything for best friend. Larry suggests they get a domestic partnership so he can add his kids to his policy.

So our heroes are frauds, and the movie doesn't see anything wrong with it. Instead, it keeps them getting deeper into the process. Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), their attorney, advises them to get married in Canada so the city government's investigation might lighten up, but not before telling them, "Gays and lesbians haven't been fighting for these rights for 40 years for them to made a mockery of." This isn't metafiction, so she's clearly not aware of this movie's existence. Before we get to the problem with the jokes revolving around the movie's premise, it should be noted that an uncredited Rob Schneider appears as the Asian minister who performs the boys' wedding, so we've got jokes demeaning women, the obese, and Asians thus far. Oh, I forgot, Chuck makes fun of the fact that his best friend's wife is dead. Yeah, Chuck's a complete, unsympathetic jerk. Chuck and Larry get married and now have to "act gay," whatever that means.  The movie knows, apparently, because Alex invites them to a fundraiser full of effeminate men, including the unbearable Nick Swardson playing Alex's brother who's dressed as a fairy and an uncredited David Spade whose character might be worse.

I haven't mentioned that Larry's son (Cole Morgen) prefers musical theater to baseball and dresses like he's in a production of A Chorus Line, and yes, Chuck likes to make fun of him too. Apparently, it's fine to make jokes that stereotype an entire sexual orientation as long as you have a scene showing fundamentalist Christians protesting outside of the fundraiser. In other words, because it's not hateful, that makes it all right. Once the movie shifts gears and tries to turn Chuck and Larry into heroes for gay rights, it takes an overly hypocritical turn. The two learn a lesson: It's not nice to be prejudiced against people because of things they cannot help. Explain then why the movie so happily does the same thing up until then. It's wrong to call someone a degrading name, but if you want to make broad sweeping generalizations about a group or, in this case, groups of people, go ahead. Thanks for the lesson? It's the equivalent of some dumb oaf insulting someone over and over again only to leave the person with the half-assed consolation, "Hey, I'm just messing with you, buddy. Lighten up."

To a slightly fortunate degree, the movie's not blatantly offensive. Its stereotypes are so obvious, so familiar, and so retrograde, they earn groans for familiarity and lameness rather than cruelty. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry isn't vicious or political incorrect; it's just really, incredibly ignorant and insincerely, mawkishly moralistic.

Copyright 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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