I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry


Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Firefighters Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and Larry Valentine (Kevin James) are closer than brothers. Widower Larry wants to provide for his kids' future, even though, in his grief over losing his wife, he neglected to make them his beneficiaries. Chuck wants to go on living his wild, single hetero life. Larry saved his best friend's life while fighting a fire and needs a favor in return. To help Larry preserve his family, he calls upon Chuck to become his 'domestic partner' in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry."

Robin:
All that Chuck needs to do is sign a few forms that will clear up Larry's civic red tape and no one need know about their arrangement. But, a nosey bureaucrat is suspicious of this odd couple and their partnership becomes front-page news. To maintain their sham, Chuck and Larry must pose as newlyweds and demonstrate same-sex domestic bliss. Their trials and tribulations in pulling this off shows them just what family is.

"Chuck & Larry" is a mixed bag of a comedy that has some good, funny moments and some plain old silliness with its two straight guys trying to act gay yarn. Add to this the all too familiar straight guy, posing as gay, falls for a pretty woman - in this case, Jessica Biel, as L&C's lawyer Alex - and maintains the homosexual façade to get close to her. And, we have Chuck as a babe magnet, but what do you expect in an Adam Sandler movie?

This is a sometimes-entertaining comedy that moves along in fits and starts as it moves to its expected conclusion. C&L get over their inbreed homophobia, Larry finally deals with the loss of his wife, Chuck (no surprise) gets the girl and all is made right in the end. Overall, though, it is a forgettable bit of summer movie fluff that does not stay with you long after you leave the theater. I give it a C+.

Laura:
Brooklyn firefighter Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler, "Reign Over Me") is a local celebrity, a calendar pinup popular with the ladies.  His best buddy and partner Larry Valentine (Kevin James, "Hitch," TV's "The King of Queens") is a widowed father struggling with grief and insurance rules.  In order to get around the red tape preventing him from protecting his two kids with insurance, Larry surprises Chuck with an unusual proposition - one that finds them in a Niagara Falls chapel where a Japanese justice (Rob Schneider) proclaims "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry."

A script originally written by Barry Fanaro ("Kingpin," "Men in Black II"), then polished by the "Sideways" team of Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor is given the Sandler treatment by lowbrow comedy director Dennis Dugan ("Big Daddy," "The Benchwarmers") and Sandler's production team.  What we end up with is a film at schizophrenic odds with itself.  "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" wants to appeal to fans of "Billy Madison" with its homophobic hetero jokes while sucking in "The Wedding Singer" crowd with its tolerance message and 'softer-side-of-Sandler'.  While it has much to its credit, it could have been, should have been, so much better.

Chuck and Larry are the pride of their station.  Their exchange - 'Going in alive. Coming out the same way.' - precedes many brave rescue missions.  But when Chuck proposes gay marriage, Larry isn't buying, despite their bonds.  Only thing is, Larry owes Chuck big time - Chuck just saved his life.  All is on the hush until a visit from a city official puts them under suspicion of fraud. Suddenly the very straight duo must come out of the closet fully betrothed.

The first twenty minutes of "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" are cringingly awful.  Sandler's Chuck not only has a ridiculously attractive girlfriend, he's just schtupped her twin behind her back.  He can sexually harass a beautiful surgeon and she ends up playing with his Asian harem.  The guys' first depicted rescue is capped off by the fart of a grossly obese victim. James fares a little better with an amusing bit on automated phone bureaucracy.

Things take a step up when Chuck and Larry make their commitment, beginning with the all time best disguising of Sander perennial Rob Schneider as Morris Takeshi, the sympathetic JP.  Schneider is reminiscent of Mickey Rooney's infamously racist portray of "Breakfast at Tiffanys'" Mr. Yunioshi without quite crossing that offensive line.  And of course what hereto-men-pretending-to-be-gay movie would be complete without the female romantic lead - here Chuck is undone by Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel, "The Illusionist," "Next"), a lawyer/gay rights activist the couple turns to when they're investigated.  Alex brings out Chuck/Sandler's soft side (much is made of Chuck's soulful eyes, an unflattering indication that Sandler's sensitivity may be totally manufactured) and introduces the guys into situations where they, particularly Chuck, learn the hurt of gay taunts.  The whole things ends in an extended courtroom sequence presided over by the famously gay Richard Chamberlain (TV's "Dr. Kildare," "The Thorn Birds") as Councilman Banks which gives Dan Aykroyd ("50 First Dates," "Christmas with the Kranks") a chance to shine as the lads' conflicted superior, Captain Tucker.

I have lamented before over Sandler's inability to excise his inner twelve-year-old horndog, and it is just this tendency which brings "Chuck & Larry" down.  That Chuck would be fought over by such a bevy of beauties is an astounding display of ego. Chuck's chuckles over Larry's queerly acting son (newcomer Cole Morgen, allowed to mug a bit too much) and his blackly humorous hospital diagnosis of Larry's condition work because they feel like real guy banter, but his hardhearted impersonation of Larry's dead wife is seriously off putting and just plain weird, as is his sexual pandering to Chuck's older Latina housekeeper (Mary Pat Gleason). It's Sandler, too, who delivers all the homophobe cliches.  Yet the film features some genuinely funny stuff, such as a soap-in-the-shower scene that culminates with a hilarious Ving Rhames ("Pulp Fiction," "Mission: Impossible III") rendition of 'I'm Every Woman.'  And Sandler's genuinely believable redeeming Chuck, outraged at the use of the word 'faggot.'

The cast is a veritable who's who of Sandler's extended film family. Steve Buscemi's ("Mr. Deeds," "Interview") interfering Clinton Fitzer is a disappointment and Biel offers little more than good-naturedness, but Rhames is terrific and many of the smaller supporting roles pay off big time. Rachel Dratch ("Click," TV's "30 Rock") is hilarious as a desperate benefits supervisor and Nicholas Turturro ("World Trade Center") amuses as a firefighter valuing gay desire.  Watch for outed *NSync-er Lance Bass as a last scene wedding singer.

"I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" is a frustratingly flawed comedy, but it when its schizophrenic vibes are on the right side, it works just enough to satisfy.

C+
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