In recent years, the emergence of gay rights and domestic partnerships into the mainstream has polarized Americans politically and socially. While conservatives shout, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” liberals demand equality.
By presenting views from both sides of the spectrum, cinema helps to bridge the gap between extremes and point the homosexuality needle toward generally acceptable. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is the latest entry in the effort to solidify the commonality of same-sex relationships and trumpet their parity.
In the same breath, Chuck and Larry is Hollywood’s comedy “coming out” party. Although many full-length features have ventured into the realm of gay interest, Chuck and Larry is one of the few films to depict homosexual stereotypes from a heterosexual point of view and add a humorous twist.
Following the death of his wife, New York City firefighter Larry Valentine (Kevin James) must name a new beneficiary to ensure that his children will be cared for in the event of Larry’s death on the job. Considering Larry saved his best friend and coworker Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) from a tragic fall, Larry asks Chuck to return the favor in the form of filing for a domestic partnership. However, the partnership involves more than Chuck and Larry initially bargained for.
What started as a way to cheat the system for benefits and seemed as simple as forwarding Chuck’s mail to Larry’s address quickly elevates into being inspected by insurance inspector Clint Fitzer (Steve Buscemi) and counseled by drop-dead gorgeous attorney Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel). With Larry’s pension on the line, Chuck and Larry attempt to convince the world that they are a legitimate gay couple.
Most likely, the general public would agree that straight men pretending to be gay provides for clever banter. Yet, when the motion picture is a Happy Madison production, the results are typical. The players are the same, the obligatory side characters are expected, and the laughs are average. Fortunately, the cast comes in handy in upping the film’s funniness. Unfortunately, the laughs are mostly a result of delivery, not material.
Yes, the names James, Sandler, and Buscemi guarantee a few belly laughs, but additional chuckles come from cameos by Rachel Dratch, David Spade, Lance Bass, Dave Matthews, and Dan Patrick. Ving Rhames shines as a masculine, newly-gay firefighter, while Jessica Biel exudes a ton of charm and sex appeal as Sandler’s love interest. Still, as the cast bodes well, the film falls short of expectations.
When the plot spirals into a courtroom trial, Chuck and Larry goes beyond being a vehicle to brew gay gags; it begins to preach tolerance. How is it that a feature can bash gay love one second, and then defend it with pride the next? This is what makes Chuck and Larry more of a movement to build awareness that the word “faggot” is derogatory than a full-fledged comedy.
Sadly, the storyline is a gimmick from beginning to end, and it’s entirely based on a sham. Director Dennis Dugan attaches the same style he used to direct The Benchwarmers and downgrades Chuck and Larry. The bottom-line is this: what could have worked doesn’t. To cheat the world of benefits/insurance is fraud, and to cheat viewers on more than one level is the same.