Movie review by Greg Carlson
Nobody who attends “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” should expect to see a document of genuine compassion for gay couples struggling for domestic partnership benefits, despite the film’s tepid, half-hearted message that tolerance is good. The preview sums it up and does it better than the movie itself: a straight fireman calls in a favor from his best friend requiring the pair to appear as a gay couple in order to receive family health insurance. The premise leaks like a colander, never managing to move beyond the impulse to make infantile, retrograde fun of people who don’t happen to be straight. “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” is easily one of the worst movies of the year.
Adam Sandler, stretching credulity beyond the snapping point, plays Chuck, a lothario so skillful he routinely beds women several at a time, presumably because his services are irresistible. One wouldn’t guess it from his personality, however, which is another variation on the shrill, cynical, phony jerk that has made the man a fortune. Chuck’s heterosexual prowess seems to exist primarily as a means to reassure Sandler’s constituency that their man is light years from queer. After spending an eternity lobbing an endless supply of gay jokes, including his own use of that other F word, the best Sandler can do is remind viewers at the end of the movie that to call homosexuals hurtful names is no different from disparaging him for being a Jew.
Under different circumstances, namely an entirely new set of personnel in front of and behind the camera, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” might have been able to cleverly tackle the relevance of its topic, but its creators are hell-bent on stooping to the lowest lows. Ving Rhames is the frustrated, closeted co-worker whose big scene is an unconvincing shower room version of “I’m Every Woman,” which immediately follows a protracted “don’t drop the soap” routine that would have been dated decades ago. Larry (Kevin James) is perfectly content to use homosexuality as a cover, but can’t deal with the fact that his pre-adolescent son prefers show tunes to baseball. In a word, ugh.
Gays are hardly alone as the targets of the movie’s lame jabs. In addition to making certain that there are no believable homosexual characters in sight, Rob Schneider hides behind buck teeth and a bowl haircut in order to cook up a grotesque Asian stereotype that competes with the horror that is Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Jessica Biel and all the other women in the movie are regarded merely as sexual playthings. The group of heroic Brooklyn firefighters with whom Chuck and Larry work can scarcely be bothered to put the homophobia in check for more than a minute.
The movie’s screenplay is so shoddy, it wraps up the action in a shockingly rote courtroom hearing scene that refuses to deliver a much needed smooch between the title lads. Sandler probably fretted that his legions would abandon him if he performed a heartfelt lip-lock with another fellow, so he leaves the dirty work to Rhames, who proves game in a gay wedding epilogue. Gay or straight, viewers will be hard pressed to find anything worthwhile in this counterfeit canard. It’s laughable in all the wrong ways.
This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 7/23/07.