My husband and I had a rare chance to take in a movie last Saturday afternoon. Since our first choice, The Bourne Ultimatum was sold out for the only time slot we could attend, we decided to try I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry instead. I generally like Adam Sandler comedies, so I wasn’t all that disappointed about not getting in to see Bourne. I’d read some reviews of Chuck & Larry beforehand, and knew that many critics thought the movie was hypocritical in that it made fun of homosexuals throughout, while ultimately trying to deliver a message that doing so was wrong. However, I tried not to let those criticisms color my viewing experience.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Sandler and Kevin James star as New York City firemen Chuck Levine and Larry Valentine. The early scenes serve to establish some quick characterizations of Chuck and Larry. Chuck is a ladies’ man who routinely sleeps with different women every single night. Larry is more of a family man who has his children’s best interest at heart — particularly since their mother died a year ago. We also get some scenes of Chuck and Larry on the job, where they’re portrayed as being very competent and brave. Oh, and they’re both completely straight.
Larry hasn’t been able to move on since his wife’s death. He can’t even clean out her closet, let alone date again. What’s more, we find out that he neglected to change the primary beneficiary on his pension plan before the deadline, which means that if something were to happen to him on the job, his kids wouldn’t get anything. The only way Larry can get around this rule is to get married again. But there’s no suitable candidate for that plan, and besides, Larry wouldn’t trust his kids with just anyone.
Then one day Larry sees that instead of getting married, he can set up a domestic partnership with someone of the same sex. He immediately thinks of Chuck and explains the plan, but Chuck wants nothing to do with a domestic partnership. That all changes when Larry saves Chuck’s life on the job, meaning that Chuck now owes him a huge favor. So, they go down to the courthouse, do the deed, and set up the pension paperwork.
But that’s not the end of their problems. It turns out that a lot of people try to game the system by setting up fake domestic partnerships, so Chuck and Larry will have to subject themselves to lots of inspections from city officials like Clinton Fitzer (Steve Buscemi), who would like nothing more than to catch them in a lie and prosecute them for fraud.
So the rest of the movie then deals with Chuck and Larry’s attempts to set up a believable home life and fool Fitzer into leaving them alone. They hire the smokin’ hot Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel) as their lawyer, and you just know Chuck’s going to have a hard time pretending to be gay when she’s around. Chuck and Larry also interact with some members of the gay community, experience firsthand some of the discrimination that gays face on a daily basis, and ultimately grow as people (or so the filmmakers would like you to believe).
My Reaction: I thought this was merely an average film, and that has nothing to do with any perceived hypocrisy in the message. I just felt that the jokes were flat and predictable, and didn’t think the resolution was satisfactory.
I could see that the characters were getting backed into a corner by the script, because the nature of the film dictated that Chuck and Larry would have to be revealed as frauds at some point. But the way this was handled too matter-of-factly for my tastes. Captain Tucker just waltzes into the courtroom, tells everyone what’s really going on, and Chuck and Larry merely end up with a slap on the wrist?
That wasn’t a fair resolution given what the filmmakers led us to believe throughout the first 98% if the film, that Chuck and Larry would face serious penalties if they were convicted of fraud. So when the situation was resolved so quickly and easily, I couldn’t help feeling that I’d just been jerked around for the previous hour and forty minutes.
There wasn’t much else worth mentioning about this movie. I thought Jessica Biel was pretty good as Alex, and she did have some funny moments with Chuck (especially on their Girls Day Out), but as I said before, most of the other jokes were stale and predictable.
Overall, I thought I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry had a lot of potential, but failed to deliver the goods in the end. I give it 2 stars out of 5 and recommend that you wait until it comes out on DVD.