Two straight, single men try to pretend they are a gay couple in order to receive pension benefits by way of their domestic partnership.
You are stupid.
That’s what the makers of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry think of you. At least by my best estimate, that is the only thing I can come up with to explain why this movie was made and even more offensive still, why they thought we would actually enjoy it. Some movies fail because of unmet expectations and some movies fail because they just plain suck. This one is guilty of the latter. There are so many levels on which I hated this movie it’s hard to figure out where to start. But I’ll give it the old college try:
1.) The story is skit-length deep, at best. The idea for the movie is only marginally funny - a one-trick pony that is stretched so thin that the only thing left to do is fill in the gaps with jokes (more on that later). The story of how two straight, single Brooklyn firefighters, Chuck and Larry (Adam Sandler and Kevin James) pretend to be a gay couple so they can reap the pension benefits of their new domestic partnership. After Larry’s wife dies he misses the deadline to change the beneficiary of his pension from his wife to his children. A routine search of a burned house goes bad, Larry saves Chuck’s life, they end up in the hospital, and Larry threatens to quit the department in lieu of a ‘safer’ job. He later reads an article on same-sex domestic partnership rights and decides to marry Chuck, making him the beneficiary and caretaker of his children. I will admit, I was mildly amused by the trailer, not by the story but more so because of the characters.
2.) The ‘jokes’ are unfunny and offensive. Look, they’re in a Gay Pride parade! Look, they’re at a function for gay people and there is a dance off! Look, Chuck is shopping for clothes with a woman and enjoying it! In other words, garden variety, stereotypical gay jokes. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those high and mighty types always looking to defend a cause. Nor am I some sensitive schlub who can’t handle a little black humor. I make fun of people and situations as a hobby, almost to a fault. It’s not that the jokes are smack-you-in-the-face offensive, there was just an unsettling feeling with some of them. Leaving the movie I said to my girlfriend, “If I was gay, I would have been completely offended by the majority of that movie.” To which she said “If you were gay, the integrity of our relationship could be called into question and that would still be a terrible movie.” Oh snap! Ultimately the movie is about gay rights, tolerance, and equality, so the subject matter itself can be, by definition, a little dicey to confront. But the subject matter is not what I am talking about. It’s the half-assed way the matter was handled. You can make a funny movie about gay characters and tolerance and equality (The Birdcage is an excellent, hilarious example) so we know it can be done, it just wasn’t done here. Maybe ‘unfunny and offensive’ isn’t fair. Maybe a better way of putting it would be to say it was offensive because it was unfunny.
3.) The characters are unbelievably dumb. This is an ‘Adam Sandler movie’ so much shouldn’t be made at the lack of depth in the characters. So I will re-phrase the title to be Chuck and Larry’s lawyer Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel) is unbelievably dumb. Even by the reduced standards of a Happy Madison picture, this one scrapes the bottom of the barrel. I didn’t buy her buying the guys’ story. I didn’t buy her not figuring out Chuck was forever hitting on her (and even letting him feel her up - although I appreciated the scene nonetheless). I didn’t buy that she had no other friends and took to Chuck and Larry so quickly that she invited Chuck to a gala and out shopping. I didn’t buy her I didn’t buy her being surprised when she finds out they are (gasp!) straight. I just didn’t buy that she was that stupid and her character didn’t work for me, at all. It’s kind of like that joke, “What’s better than winning the gold medal at the Special Olympics? Not being retarded.” Well, she didn’t even qualify for the race. I guess is a lawyer...
4.) It should have been much, much better. Maybe not because of the movie itself, but the players involved in making it. I really like Kevin James on King of Queens and his stand-up is pretty funny too. He has a physical comedic presence and an everyman quality that is endearing. Adam Sandler, let’s face it, has been in some turd movies but some of them have been pretty funny. And with his recent successful foray into dramatic roles (Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Reign Over Me. Well, maybe not Spanglish) he has shown that he has range. He just reduced himself into someone going through the motions here. Finally, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, the guys credited with writing this mess. Election, Sideways; those were great movies, partially to do with the fact that they were created from great screenplays. These guys have an Oscar for Christ sake! I suppose I expected more, and rightly so.
A bad, bad movie on many levels. A paper thin story woven together by unfunny jokes, offensive stereotypes, and characters so ignorant they made me want to punch a baby in the face. I almost walked out (and I sat through Dude, Where’s My Car? in the theatre). Had it not been for the fact that I was on vacation in the middle of nowhere and had to drive 45 minutes to get to the closest theatre to see it, I probably would have. And there’s the rub.
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