I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is the kind of comedy that tries to toe two lines and stumbles on both. It spends its first half gleefully mocking homosexuals and everything about them, then does an about-face and turns into a tolerance sermon as the two main characters slowly discover that gays aren’t to be feared. In the proper hands this could have come off as genuine, but under the direction of Dennis Dugan and the empire that is Adam Sandler, it’s just a vehicle for cheap shots, reusable jokes, and tired clichés.
New York firefighters Chuck (Sandler) and Larry (James) are best of friends and excellent at their jobs. Chuck loves women more than anything in the world; this means, at times, having say, a half dozen in his room at one time. Larry is still mourning the death of his wife; his bedroom a solemn shrine to her memory. He is raising two kids, one of whom may or may not be gay (his son has a vested interest in Broadway and tap dancing).
One day Larry discovers that he forgot to alter the beneficiary on his life insurance policy to his children, rather than his deceased wife. The one-year grace period to do so has expired. Considering the danger involved with his work, should something happen, his children would be left without a dime. Fortunately for Larry, he recently saved Chuck’s life in an unstable building and Chuck owes him one. Larry’s plan: To have him and Chuck fabricate an identity as a gay couple so Larry can receive domestic partnership benefits. Chuck will be the beneficiary, and he can give the money to the kids in case he perishes. Perfect plan, right?
After a riotous opening twenty minutes, the screenplay by Barry Fanaro, Alexander Payne (how on Earth did he get involved with this?), and Jim Taylor disintegrates into sitcom-level stereotypes and painfully obvious humor. The only truly inspiring moments come in the form of Ving Rhames going from menacing force to closet homosexual. It should also be noted that seeing Rhames singing in the shower was very high atop my “Thing I Never Want to See – Ever!” list.
Along for the ride is Jessica Biel, who has, once again, chosen another throwaway role since showing some true talent in The Illusionist. I will give her props for being a sport and dressing down in the name of comedy, however. While it is indeed ludicrous to believe she is a hotshot lawyer in the film, a scene in which she breaks every rule in the attorney-client relations handbook is played to perfection by her and Sandler.
That the filmmakers felt it necessary to screen I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry to gay rights groups prior to anyone else to make sure all was well and good certainly speaks to just how PC the world has gotten, but it also reeks of a ploy by all involved to make sure they can have their cake and eat it, too. The tolerance the final act preaches comes off as amazingly insincere. Perhaps the screenplay could have used a little more Alexander Payne.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language and drug references. (re-rated; originally rated R)
Theatrical Release: July 20, 2007
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Barry Fanaro & Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Dan Aykroyd, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi