“You can come out of the down low”
I don’t like the fact that I will go into films with a preconception about how I may end up enjoying them. Adam Sandler’s vehicle I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was one of these. Never really seeking it out due to the horrible track record his comedies have had of late, I wasn’t exactly psyched to sit down and watch. At the start I was pretty much in agreement with where my head was going in, the fake Brooklyn accents, the horrible bluescreen of NYC behind the racing fire truck (although I blame the HD for that), and the bland jokes made up of a mix between obvious and uninspired definitely didn’t help. However, once we get into the true plotline—Kevin James’ Larry Valentine attempting to get his pension moved to his kids after failing to do so in the year since his wife’s death—things start picking up, both story-wise and laugh-wise. By no means a great film, there is some charm hidden within that crops up enough to make it just the right amount of enjoyable making me feel that I didn’t completely waste two hours of my life.
We need a contrived instance to set up our asinine plot device and it comes in the form of James saving Sandler’s Chuck from plummeting to his death during a secondary search after a fire. Chuck, in the hospital, of course says how he will do anything Larry needs to make up for the deed. Well, this ladies man lothario—seducing a frigid nurse into having some fun with he and five Hooters girls—was not prepared for the bombshell laid on him to get married as domestic partners, moving the pension so he could give it to the children. Like the sentimental drivel that crops up at the end, this is NYC and these guys are firefighters. It’s a brotherhood and they stick together as a family. If one guy goes down, the whole lot of them does. Well, that is after they accept the fact their two buddies are gay … I mean these are manly-man men, they won’t turn to acceptance too fast.
The dynamic works as Sandler and James play up the whole “relationship” thing by creating marital humor doubling for friendship. They sleep in the same bed; they bicker about how they faked the laughter when the other told a joke and how they never hang out anymore. While that is all well and good, I was happy to see that the two don’t share as much screen time as I initially thought. Instead we get wonderful moments with periphery characters. James has a continual spat with Steve Buscemi’s insurance pawn looking to catch them in fraud as well as with the mailman who wants to get in on the “gay” action; Sandler has possibly the best relationship of the film with Jessica Biel, the lawyer they’ve hired to make sure they are seen as a legitimate couple. Sure the whole “girls night out” and friendship bracelet making is a tad much, but it worked for me. Here is a guy that finally finds a woman he wants to be better for and a girl who has found her perfect man in a gay married firefighter. It’s a pairing ripe with clichés yet I bought into it and enjoyed seeing how it all played out to the moment of revelation that will of course crop up at the end.
The story tries its hardest to be politically relevant, doing its best to shed light on bigotry and peace for all kinds of people. There are of course instances of flamboyancy to counter those of normalcy, showing that the true homosexuals may not be afraid to show off their colors, but they still get hurt from all the bashing. It’s a fine line that seems balanced enough to be unobtrusive, although I’m sure there are people who were offended just like there are for any movie with a hot-button topic.
Where Chuck and Larry succeeds—as with most Sandler films—is with the supporting cast. Rob Schneider shows once more that he can be funny when he is not the star of a movie. His Asian minister is a real good laugh, offensive yes, but doesn’t that always get coupled with funny? The usual crew of friends pops up throughout, either as fellow firemen or, in Allen Covert’s case, a fellow parent at James’ kid’s school. The real home-run hitter, though, is Ving Rhames. I should have known the arc his role would take, but the filmmakers do a nice enough job distracting us from him for most of the film until reintroduced towards the end. Starting as the big, strong, silent type no one wants to mess with, Rhames becomes the funniest part of the film when he finally speaks. There are also some funny scenes, even one taking place in the fire hall shower with soap being dropped. The idea itself is completely uninspired, but the way it’s handled made it work just enough to be fresh and funny despite its stereotype.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry 5/10 | ★ ★