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I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry

Talent: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel

Date of Review: Friday, 17 August  2007 

photo of Chuck and Larry

Chuck and Larry

If you're looking for a subtle and sophisticated movie comedy, then you can bet that Adam Sandler won't be your go-to man. During the last ten years, he's become one of Hollywood's top stars thanks to a series of broad, loud, often offensive and sometimes sentimental comedies. It's not Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder, but it's worked for him. However, he's hardly the guy for a film about the tricky subject of same-sex relationships. But thanks to his star power and muscle as a producer we have I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

Sandler plays Chuck Levine, who's best buddies with Larry Valentine (Kevin James). The two are firefighters, plunging themselves into dangerous situations on a daily basis. That's a cause of concern for widowed Larry, who worries about the care of his kids if he's injured. To take advantage of pension benefits, and because he doesn't trust his children with anyone else, Larry cooks up a plan for him and Chuck to register as a same-sex couple. Initially reluctant, ladies man Chuck agrees, and the two head off to Canada for a quickie wedding. Things get complicated when the authorities start poking around to see if the relationship is legitimate, and things get worse when Chuck gets attracted to the lawyer handling their case, Alex (played by Jessica Biel).

If parts of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry sound awfully familiar, they should. This film bears a startling similarity to Strange Bedfellows starring Paul Hogan and Michael Caton. What is it about male firefighters pretending to be married that film makers find so amusing? Well, as it turns out, not much. Dennis Dugan's new film is as awkward and clunky as the 2004 Australian movie. The notion of two straight boys tying the knot opens the floodgates for every predictable gay stereotype to hit the screen. There are jokes about dropping the soap in the shower, gay pride marches, disco dance offs, references to Boy George and Streisand, and back door innuendo. As progressive as Chuck and Larry seems to want to be, its humour is incredibly dated and terribly unfunny. It's not that it's wildly offensive. In fact, it's a rather bland sort of comedy that fails to really engage an audience of any persuasion.

Forgive the awful pun, but director Dugan is trying to juggle too many balls in the air at once. His movie spends a lot of time in nudge-nudge, wink-wink territory, but also tries to make a statement about tolerance and acceptance. To give the film its due, this is probably the only way that Adam Sandler fans would be exposed to a story that stands up against homophobia. But the end result is just such a mish-mash that not even its good intentions can save it.

The performances are quite uneven. Jessica Biel is charming as the frankly ludicrously naïve attorney. Dan Aykroyd fails to make much of an impact as the fire chief, Steve Buscemi is downright annoying as the slimy investigator, and Ving Rhames goes embarrassingly way beyond camp as a fellow firefighter. Kevin James does a nice job as the guy who cooks up this crazy scheme. He actually brings a fair bit of pathos to his role. But Adam Sandler seems truly out of place here. For starters, he's meant to be a babe magnet (if you can believe that), and what's worse, his Chuck is so irresponsible you can't imagine why Larry would trust him with the kids in the first place. Screenwriters Barry Fanaro, and the usually excellent Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne have really dropped the ball in creating characters that connect with an audience. It's probably the film's biggest stumbling block.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry will likely upset some people, and for very different reasons. But for film lovers, its crime is that it is a comedy without any real laughs. This is a funny movie that's definitely trapped in its own rather awkward closet.

- Michael Clarke

Related Web site:
Country of Origin: United States
Director/Producer/Editor: Dennis Dugan
Classification: M


This review was featured by Michael Clarke.

Last Updated: 17/08/2007 10:00:00 AM AEST

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