© 2007 Ray Wong
I don't know what I expected from Adam Sandler. I'm not part of his demographics (boys, age 14-25). I didn't enjoy his earlier hits such as Happy Gilmore and Waterboy. I was mildly entertained by Click. That's it. That's probably why I gave I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry a try.
Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and Larry Valentine (Kevin James) are two Brooklyn firefighters. And straight. Larry is a widower with two young children, and Chuck is a big-time womanizer. When Larry discovers that the only way he can change his pension beneficiary from his wife to his children is by getting married again, but the only person he can trust to take care of his children is Chuck. So Larry concocts a plan: he and Chuck could pretend to be a gay couple and claim domestic partnership.
Chuck reluctantly agrees. All is going well until the city starts to suspect the legitimacy of their claim. They consult a lawyer, Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), who happens to be a hot babe. Chuck has to hide his attraction toward Alex while trying to convince Alex that he and Larry are indeed a gay couple. To seal the deal, Chuck and Larry go to Canada to get married. Meanwhile, investigator Clinton Fitzer (Steve Buscemi) watches them with a hawk's eye. So Chuck moves in with Larry and the kids. Words get out, and now they have to deal with the homophobia thrown at them from their colleagues as well as the community.
Adam Sandler (Click) is doing what he does best: playing an infantile man-boy who is homophobic, misogynistic, and downright crude and rude to everyone. Sandler can do all that in his sleep. The trouble is, he is walking a very fine line of being funny and simply being obnoxious, especially if he's a role model for his fan base. Kevin James (Hitch) is in good form as the cuddly, lovable family man -- the straight man (so to speak) in this comedic duo. Still, they both are typecast in their respective roles; nothing wrong with that, really.
As the object of Sandler's affection (or lust), Jessica Biel (The Illusionist) is effervescent, sweet, and sexy. Her comic timing is very good and adds something more sensible to this sophomoric comedy. Dan Aykroyd (Christmas with the Kranks) has not much to do except to deliver some cringe-worthy one-liners as Captain Tucker. Ving Rhames (Idlewild) steals the show by making fun of his onscreen image. Steve Buscemi (I Think I Love My Wife) adds another creepy, weird character on his resume.
Written by Barry Fanaro (Men in Black II), Alexander Payne (Sideways), and Jim Taylor (Sideways), the script is surprisingly coarse, childish, and uneven. I would think the Oscar-winning Sideways scribes would add some class, or at least something though-provoking to the story. Instead, what we get are recycled jokes and outdated gags that may have worked in, say, the 80's. Sure, as an Adam Sandler vehicle, there are some genuinely funny moments, and the chemistry and interplay between Sandler and James are wonderful.
Reuniting with Adam Sandler, director Dennis Dungan (The Benchwarmers) has taken the safe route with this sophomoric comedy. There is really nothing special about the directing, but he does the job.
Still, do we need another "drop the soap" joke and gratuitous male nudity? Not to mention the stereotypes. I know, stressing the stereotypes and ignorance sounds funny. But when you see that all gay men are either sissies or drag queens, or all women are lusty sex objects, or all straight men are bumbling idiots, you just can't help but find it offensive, even in the context of a comedy. There's nothing funny about tiresome old jokes. They do try to shoehorn some sensitivity messages in the film ("gay people are people, too" or "love is love") but they come as almost an afterthought. The whole point of the movie is to make teenage boys laugh, and they sure are not going to laugh at themselves. For example, the recurring "yuck factor" of two guys kissing only serves to make the audience go "Eww!" A blast to the past, isn't it?
The misogyny and racism presented in the film are just as bad as the gay jokes, and I am not sure where the filmmakers really stand. Jessica Biel's character is naive, clueless and all boobs and ass. I find it nauseating that they cast Rob Schneider (uncredited) as a Canadian-Japanese wedding coordinator. Granted, Schneider is part-Asian but the casting choice is not the problem -- the problem is that they have to stress every demeaning Asian stereotype. Why does he have to be Japanese? For no other reason than that funny-looking Asians with funny-sounding accents are supposed to be funny. Now, that's offensive.
There's nothing risky about this film: the casting is safe, the jokes are recycled, and even the sensitivity issue is glossed over in the context of "it's a Adam Sandler comedy." So get over it. The premise could have led to a profoundly humorous look at straight vs. gay America (as in Transamerica). It would have been funnier had one of the characters been gay. But the filmmakers really miss the boat on this one. They choose, instead, to be lowbrow. With that, I now pronounce the film NOT FUNNY.
Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Dan Aykroyd, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi
Director: Dennis Dugan
Writer: Barry Fanaro, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual content, nudity, language, and drug references
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 5.6 out of 10