Thursday, June 28, 2012

Disappointing, But Still Enough Good To Recommend, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.

The Good: Moments of humor, Ultimately a pro-tolerance stance, Moments of acting, DVD bonus features
The Bad: Pulls punches, Pacing, Predictable plot
The Basics: Funny, but hardly a timeless comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry has a basic premise and ultimately promotes tolerance of gay and lesbian civil rights.

Lately, I have found myself watching a lot of movies to keep my partner happy, though I am generally glad to do that. The other day, she had a rough day at work - she works at a pet store and a puppy had to be put down because another worker administered the dog a pill, which ended up in the animal's lung! - and she wanted a movie to take her mind off her day. So, we went to our library and I let her pick out a film. The one we ended up watching was I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and it served its purpose, to distract her from what was going on.

The problem with I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is that once one hears the title, they pretty much get the entire concept of the movie and the execution of that concept offers few surprises or laughs. The movie is entirely predictable, is unimpressive in terms of scope or even the delivery of its message. For those looking for a pro-gay rights film, the comedy makes jokes that are often too awkward to be considered truly open minded and the movie takes no real risks in terms of storytelling. In many ways, it becomes a very typical Adam Sandler film.

Chuck and Larry are New York City firefighters who are best friends. They wisecrack as they put out fires and perform rescues and their lives seem generally content. Chuck is a womanizer who is happily promiscuous and untied to any one woman, while Larry is a widower raising two children. When Chuck nearly plummets to his death during an investigation of a burnt-out building, he is rescued by Larry. Larry, in the process, comes to realize that his children are not protected by his benefits package, which still names his dead wife as the beneficiary. Because of an administrative error, the benefits cannot be transferred unless Larry gets married.

Larry, then, decides to call in Chuck's promise of doing anything for his friend in gratitude for being saved by him; he asks Chuck to be his domestic partner so his if he dies, Chuck could take care of his kids. After a patent reluctance, Chuck agrees. Soon after they become domestic partners, a special investigator - Clint Fitzer - is dispatched to look into the partnership, alleging fraud. Chuck moves in with Larry, their boss finds out about the partnership and subsequent marriage and soon all of the firehouse is disturbed by Chuck and Larry being "out." As the two men work to save themselves from jail, Chuck finds himself attracted to their lawyer, Alex, who is eager to defend the two men and their right to their marriage.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is a pretty standard Adam Sandler vehicle, including appearances by Sandler's Saturday Night Live alums Rob Schneider - in an utterly insulting role as the Asian priest who marries Chuck and Larry in Canada - and David Spade. This means that Adam Sandler plays yet another generally mild-mannered guy who speaks abrasively with a sense of innocence about him. Sandler as the womanizing Chuck has little real difference from his character in Mr. Deeds (reviewed here!), save that Chuck is smarter. As is his (apparent) trademark, there is also the requisite scene of extreme violence where Sandler beats the crap out of someone with a supposedly comedic flair. Sandler's characters almost always have an angry outburst and Chuck is no exception. This is disturbing more for what the screenwriters are apparently saying about women - virtually everyone who looks at Chuck and Larry as a couple suspects Chuck takes a traditionally feminine role in their relationship - than it does about gays.

Kevin James plays Larry and this might be the first role I've actually seen James play that is a major film role. He seems pretty much like he appears in the few clips of King Of Queens I've caught which suggests that his presence as a good, generally happy guy is the result of good casting as opposed to any form of inspired acting. The problem here is that Larry has moments when he has a melancholy that James seems unable to play. He does not carry the emotional resonance of a man pining for his wife who has been dead for two years. Instead, he slouches through the role alternating the comedic and dramatic moments with little differentiation in his performance.

Supporting roles by Jessica Biel, Ving Rhames and Dan Aykroyd all outshine Sandler and certainly James. Biel plays the lawyer, Alex, and while she and Sandler might have only minimal on-screen chemistry, she plays the role with an earnest innocence that makes her part funny and believable. She plays Alex as educated in her field, but somewhat ignorant outside it, which works. Similarly, Aykroyd's supporting role has him as a believable gruff leader and he pulls the part off quite well.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is alternately funny and offensive and this is a movie where it largely gets away with its gay jokes because Chuck's use of an anti-gay slur change by the end of the movie. As well, the ultimate message of the film is one of tolerance, that homosexuality ought not to be a limiting factor to one's quality of life or experiences and as a result, there is still some social value to the movie.

Realistically, that value is somewhat limited and there are much better movies about actual gay or lesbian love, like The Incredibly True Adventure Of Two Girls In Love whereas this explores a legal loophole in domestic partnership law which few gay and lesbian activists care about (i.e. we'd rather have domestic partnership and actual marriage laws that heterosexual couples might abuse as opposed to being denied them entirely). The plot is entirely predictable, as are the character arcs. Because the "rightness" of freedom and the rights of all people to be married and be happy are so strong, the viewer knows that Chuck and Larry will not get away with their deception (it's that kind of movie where an absolute right must be preserved for any suspension of disbelief to be maintained). As well, because Chuck is a womanizer, the viewer pretty much figures that he will grow by the end and lo and behold, he does.

The DVD presentation of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry includes about ten minutes of deleted scenes, one of which answers the question of how a guy like Chuck manages to go so long without having sex with a woman once he is married to Larry. There is a commentary track and a featurette and these are pretty much standard for a comedy of this type. They are not bad, but they are hardly exceptional.

But that is pretty much how best to define I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; it is remarkably average, but not superlative in any way.

For other works with Nick Swardson, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Jack And Jill
30 Minutes Or Less
Just Go With It


For other movie reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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