Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Dan Aykroyd, Ving Rhames, Rob Schneider. Rated PG-13.
Larry has a problem. He’s a born firefighter, one of
Brooklyn’s bravest, but as a widower with two children, he can’t risk his life
on a daily basis without a more rewarding pension plan.
His best friend and partner, Chuck, is more of a
hard-partying ladies man. We know this because he guzzles tequila straight from
the bottle and sleeps with Hooters girls – entire shifts of them, all at the
same time. Like most of Adam Sandler’s characters, Chuck is something of a
violent misanthrope, but his more sociopathic tendencies are played for laughs,
and his boorishness is inexplicably taken for charm.
One night, Larry (Kevin James) devises a scheme to save
his job and protect his family: He and Chuck will register as domestic
partners, reaping the tax breaks afforded gay couples in the state of New York.
At first, Chuck balks at the idea – he’d prefer not to tarnish his sterling
reputation as a heterosexual – but he comes around. After all, what’s a best
The short answer is abuse. Chuck spends most of his time
railing against Larry, who makes an easy target given his plus-sized frame.
It’s good-natured ribbing, of course, and there is chemistry between Sandler
and James, whose friendship is tested when the state, sensing a scam, questions
the legitimacy of their union. Official skepticism forces them to pose publicly
as a gay couple, though neither misses the chance to toss out a “fruit” here or
a “faggot” there. For a movie that preaches tolerance, I Pronounce You Chuck
& Larry is all too eager to cast gays,
minorities and the obese as the butts of its obvious, indelicate jokes.
Not that there’s anything wrong with political
incorrectness, mind you. But the movie, as written by Barry Fanaro (Men
Black II) and later revised by Sideways screenwriters
Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, knows
neither subtlety nor sophistication. Such is to be expected of a Sandler
comedy, I suppose, but I Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
has been hailed by some as a courageous cry for gay
rights. One (openly gay) critic calls it “as eloquent as Brokeback
Mountain, and even more radical.”
That’s hard to swallow. Yes, Chuck & Larry closes on a hastily manufactured high note,
reformed heroes spell out the moral of their story. (“Don’t use words like
‘faggot,’” offers Chuck, ever the source of sage advice.) And it’s a funny
movie, in an aggressively stupid, emotionally stunted way. But its messages are
It’s embarrassing enough when longtime Sandler friend and
co-star Rob Schneider shows up (again, inexplicably) as a Japanese minister
with big buck teeth and a grotesquely stereotypical accent. And there is
something cynically calculated in Chuck and Larry’s willingness to pile on the homophobic clichés before its
too tidy about-face. Is it radical? Perhaps, if you consider Sandler and James
genuine champions of gay rights, using lowbrow comedy as a platform for their
liberal, bust-out humanitarian agenda. But eloquent? Let’s not get carried