A film review by Craig J. Koban
I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND
2007, PG-13, 115 mins.
Chuck Levine - Adam Sandler / Larry Valentine - Kevin James / Alex McDonough - Jessica Biel / Duncan - Ving Rhames / Capt. Tucker - Dan Aykroyd
Directed by Dennis Dugan / Written by Barry Fanaro, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY is a comedy of unapproachable, Herculean stupidity and awfulness. It seems to go out of its way to straddle two fences: one is marked by juvenile and puerile laughs and sight gags and the other is characterized by a sanctimonious pontificating about gay and lesbian rights.
Films this cringe worthy and putrid are not ones that you simply dispose of and forget about. They linger with you like some sort of sickening virus. I left the screening feeling like the only doomed survivor of an airplane accident that was stranded alone on a desert island with no hope in sight. Movies should not make one feel so worthless. I want the 115 minutes of life that CHUCK AND LARRY unceremoniously robbed of me.
I am not sure what is more offensive about this train wreck. Is it the fact that itís another in long, long - sigh - long line of witless and banal Adam Sandler comedies that seem like they were written by five-year-olds? Is it the fact that the film contains enough gay stereotypes and homophobic jokes to make one gag, but - in the end - wishes to be a staunch advocate of equal rights for all homosexuals? Is it the fact that we get a barrage of horribly phony sentiment about the plight of gays in western society and that the film wants us to feel sympathy for one group while giving us inanely offensive caricatures of other ethnic cultures?
Or...how about the fact that the filmís second credited screenwriters are none other than Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, the former that wrote and directed great films like ELECTION, ABOUT SCHMIDT, and SIDEWAYS, also winning a Screenwriting Oscar for the latter. There is no doubt that after watching the film it is clear that either (a) Sandler and company kidnapped Payne at gun point and forced him to drain away and reduce himself down to amoral levels to write this fifth or (b) an evil, Bizarro-like clone of Payne was created to contribute to the screenplay.
I am not sure which I adhere to.
I did not buy this filmís flagrant preaching about its issues for one single second or frame. Not at all. Címon, this is a dumb, juvenile Adam Sandler comedy that - in some scenes - has jokes about farting, pooping, and bums peeing their pants, but - for Heavenís sake - it wants to tell us that gays are treated badly and that we should stop persecuting them.
There is one moment in the film where Sandler, in a PATCH ADAMS-inspired moment of horrendously contrived melodrama, states that he "hates" the word "faggot" because itís demeaning and uncalled for. He subsequently continues by saying that he used to speak the word far too much and that now - gosh darn it - heís a better man because he realizes how badly he treated gays in the past. This is the same Adam Sandler that, in his last comedy, stuck his ass in David Hasselhoffís face and farted in it. Asking me to buy Sandlerís epiphany here is one of the most incredulous straining of reality that I have ever seen in a commercial film. For an actor that has made a career out of making fun of homosexuals, I find his efforts here to be earnest and noble shockingly insincere.
CHUCK AND LARRY is the kind of comedy that gets down on its hands and knees and begs for the talents of the Farrelly Brothers. Those two have made a career of tackling politically incorrect subject matter by making it obscenely funny and simultaneously sincere with its characters. Films like STUCK ON YOU and SHALLOW HAL come to mind, which had humor revolving around morbidly obese people and conjoined twins. Yet, those films were funny because they had laughs with their handicapped personas; they never laughed at them at their expense.
Every joke and pratfall in CHUCK AND LARRY is so intolerably committed at the expense of the main leads and those around them. This is a film that wants to serve up a lot of raunchy humor directed at gay lifestyles but - at the same time - it wants to stand up and proudly proclaim that people that make fun of gays are losers. By the end of the film, when this sentiment of tolerance is spouted, I did not feel enlightened. I felt like I wanted to vomit. You can either go for broke and shock and offend with the subject matter or be a self-righteous, PC parable about respect and leniency. Since CHUCK AND LARRY tries to do both, it inevitably becomes something altogether more distasteful.
All of this, of course, should come at no surmise whatsoever. Sandler himself is back in full force as a inhumanly unstable and unlikeable hooligan, the kind that he played to irritating, finger-nails-on-a-chalkboard perfection in other moronic comedies like BIG DADDY and HAPPY GILMORE. He also brought back his director of those two films to add further insult to injury. Furthermore, he seems to continue to make the same awful missteps that those other comedies made: serve us up a grade-A degenerate, sexist, misogynist male pig and - through a series of silly events - allow him to see the light at the end of the tunnel so he can become a better man. In BIG DADDY he lead us on to believe that his character should have custody of a child when it was proven that he in no way should raise a kid. In CHUCK AND LARRY he inevitably learns that calling someone a fag is bad.
This monumentally bad comedy also commits another sin: itís a comedy with no laughs. Nadda. Zip. Zero. A smile here and there, perhaps the barest, most minute example of a snicker, but not one genuine display of hearty merriment. The film suffers from a rigidly one note premise: two straight men marry and pretend to be gay so they can get pension rights from their jobs. One of the men, Larry (Kevin James, a funny and appealing actor saddled with bad material) has an issue. After his wifeís death he was so taken away with morning her that he forgot to change his beneficiary of his life insurance policy to his children. He discovers that it is too late to do this based on a legal technicality. He also works as a firefighter, which is a dangerous job that threatens his life, so if he were to perish then his cute little kids would have nothing.
Fearing the worse, Larry decides to take a desperate course of action. He will go to his partner on the job, Chuck (Sandler, phoning in a comedic performance with the minimal of effort) and fake being gay so they can form a domestic partnership. If they do so Larry will be able to name Chuck as his new beneficiary and - presto - kids looked after for life. Of course, Chuck begrudgingly agrees, but neither of the two are smart enough to think about how anyone in their right minds would believe them. After all, Larry was a happily married man and Chuck is an unmitigated man-whore that engages in wild and rough intercourse with multiple female partners. Not only that, but what they are doing is insurance fraud. But...Chuckís kids are so cute, so it's worth the risk.
Worried about being discovered, the two hapless "gays" decide to get some legal help, most likely because government stooges are beginning to snoop around their homes looking for clues to expose them for the frauds they are (one of the agents is played by Steve Buscemi, whose appearance in yet another Sandler comedy further appears to be the result of the existence of bad blackmail in Sandlerís hands against him). They go to see a lawyer named Alex (Jessica Biel), who is red, smokiní hot. Of course, she tells them that they should legally get married to throw off the government.
Well, the two do get hitched in Canada by an Asian justice of the peace played by Rob Schneider. Why does Schneider play his part Asian? I dunno, maybe because this film feels thinks that horrendously offensive ethnic stereotypes are funny. Then again, Schneider was in DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO, a movie that contained a scene where he danced with a woman that had a congenital birth defect that gave her a penis for a nose and when she sneezed the fluid that came out was...well...use your imagination. Obviously, Sandler and Schneider thought that gag was a riot, so why not make the latterís character in CHUCK AND LARRY have slanty eyes for big laughs? Alongside this year's NORBIT, CHUCK AND LARRY continues a recent deplorable tradition of non-Asians playing Asians in makeup to horrible effect.
Anyhooí, problems arise when Chuck begins to form a bond with Alex. She thinks Chuck is gay, so she warms up to him and becomes close. Chuck starts to fall for her, but has to mask his feelings because he has to act gay. We are then subject to gratuitously stupid sequences where we see the two of them partaking on a "girlís" day out, which culminates with a scene back at Alexís apartment where she strips down out of her rain-drenched clothes right in front of Chuck. He, of course, is aroused and is made even more uncomfortable when Alex asks him to grab her breasts to see whether or not he can tell if their real. Clearly, this scene exists for Sandler to engage in his typical masturbatory objectification of women in his films. Not that there is anything wrong with seeing Beil in her underwear, mind you.
All of this builds up to - you guessed it - an impassioned court hearing that is presided over by none other than Richard Chamberlain. Here the boys have to go through a series of questions to prove their gayness. The results are unequivocally embarrassing. We get not one, but two would-be audience cheering speeches, one by Sandler, saying how he now knows that gay slurs are bad and the other by Dan Aykroyd, playing Chuck and Larryís boss, who gives a motivational speech that may go down as one of the most mortifying ever.
Then, of course, we get all of the other former homophobic co-workers who inevitably show up to give their support of their buddies. They have their SPARTACUS moment. Oh wait, thereís a third speech provided by Ving Rhames, who also plays a fellow fire fighter that comes out of the closet and emerges as the second worst caricature next to Schneiderís Asian. I donít think it takes a rocket scientist to tell that the boys will get off, will reveal to the world that theyíre not gay, and that Sandler will end up with Alex, despite the fact that a woman of her class and dignity would never, ever end up with a troglodyte like Chuck.
Is it possible for a film to be equal parts tasteless and offensive alongside being a total comic dead zone? I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY proves that you can. I am not sure how to even conclude with describing my utter discomfort and misfortune while sitting through this regrettably disagreeable comedy. The audience I was with - packed to capacity - laughed uproariously at nearly everything: the wretched homophobic jokes, the ghastly Schneider in yellow face, the preening Ving Rhames playing up to every homosexual stereotype, hell, even gags at the expense of the morbidly obese. Well, I did not share in their enjoyment of the film, but I was the only one in the theatre laughing out loud during the final ten minutes where characters lecture on acceptance and respect of their fellow man...gay and straight.
Lacking in laughs, packed with an abundance of sexism and downright racism, and paradoxically making fun of the gay community while trying to lead the charge of the world respecting them, I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY barely rises above the level of worthless, detestable trash.