Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Premise: Two straight firefighters, Chuck, a ladies man (Adam Sandler), and Larry, a widower with two children (Kevin James), pose as a gay couple and enter into a civil union so that Kevin’s children can be the beneficiaries of his life insurance. The state suspects fraud and begins to investigate the validity of their marriage, forcing Chuck and Larry to role play their lie.
What Works: After suffering through a first half that is riddled with homophobic references, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry has a much smarter second half that allows for our characters to enter into some funny scenarios that play with audience expectations of male gender roles and gives the characters space to move and grow, especially Sandler’s role as Chuck. The two men, but especially Chuck, are painted as homophobic, and when their partnership is scrutinized under very public conditions, the homophobia that these two men encounter makes them champions for the gay rights crowd. At this point, the film is able to put a fair amount at stake in Larry and Chuck’s relationship, including the pension, jail time for fraud, and larger social implications from their legal case. The film also includes a subplot as Chuck begins a relationship with his attorney (Jessica Biel) in which he has genuine romantic feelings but she opens up to him because she believes that he is a gay man. Although the relationship is hard to believe at times, it sets up an interesting problem that adds weight to the climax and the film finds a resolution to the story that is actually pretty smart and not too forced.
What Doesn’t: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is a movie that is confused about its message. The first half of the film is difficult to sit through as it relies so much on homophobic humor, most of which comes out of Chuck’s mouth. Although there is a reversal in the second half, the film is still conflicted. On the one hand, it takes a stand against homophobia but on the other hand the film continuously uses homophobia as a source of humor. Even as Chuck comes to understand the hurtful power of words and both men learn a lesson about dignity for people of other sexual orientations, the film continues to make jokes at the expense of the gay community. On top of all that, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is just not that funny. The gay jokes get very repetitive and the film does not reach out beyond that.
Bottom Line: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry will satisfy fans of Adam Sandler’s comedic films, as it retreads familiar Sandler territory. It is an uneven film with a mixed message but its biggest problem is that the humor is tired and the filmmakers were apparently too lazy to dig deeper for fresher comedic observations.
Episode: #150 (July 29, 2007)