Wayyy back in seventh grade, there was about a two-week period where a group of kids were calling me Gay-vis, instead of Davis. There's an unspoken rule amongst teenage males that states you must call your fellow peers by their last name only. And, since I was always an easy target for gay jokes (not because I was gay, mind you, but because I was weaker than a wet tissue), the boys had a grand time at my expense. I grew up in Staten Island; a borough of New York City full of tough Italian-Americans who used the word 'gay' to describe anything or anyone that wasn't worth their time.
Watching I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was like taking a trip back 17 years -- back to a time when you couldn't step foot inside a school cafeteria without hearing someone blurt out another unoriginal gay joke. And that's exactly what this latest Adam Sandler comedy is -- a long, 140-minute version of those stereotypical gay jokes that were popular during my youth in the early '90s. Problem is, it's 2007. But if blatant, in-your-face homophobia tickles your funny bone, and you're the type that feels Sandler can do no wrong, then Chuck and Larry should definitely get you off -- but not in a, ya know, gay kind of way.
Positive reviews of this film will probably preach about its "message" over anything else. What message? That it's okay to produce one godawful stereotype after another for two straight hours if, in the end, your lead character stands up and tells the audience he's not going to use the word 'faggot' anymore because it isn't nice? I'm sorry, but the last place I'm looking for a message is in a silly, outlandish Happy Madison production -- where the only message I usually walk away with is one that's scribbled in black magic marker on the forehead of everyone who paid money to see the film; it reads, "Sucker." But apparently gay jokes are big right now, as one successful comedy (Wild Hogs) this year utilized them with great success, box office-wise. So the majority of audiences will probably love Chuck (Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) -- two relatable, Brooklyn-born firefighters who love their city just as much as they love their families. And they'll probably sympathize with Larry's unfortunate dilemma, while rooting for Chuck to sleep with the entire staff at Hooters ... at the same time (literally). Because it's fun. Because it's silly. Because it reminds us of the jokes we told in seventh grade. But whether or not those jokes are still funny is entirely up to you.
The most depressing part of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is not the acting, or the premise, or the directing -- it's in the fact that this script was apparently "re-vamped" by the Oscar-winning writing duo of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. You'll hear a lot about those two guys in the reviews you read; you'll hear how they wrote Sideways, how it was nominated for Oscars (winning one for Best Adapted Screenplay) and how it's surprising to see them affiliated with this flick. But what you won't here is the name of the drug(s) they were on when the decision was made to take on this project. The remnants of their superb skills (see: Election, About Schmidt) predominantly linger in the relationship between Chuck and Larry. Early on, we're clearly shown that either man would easily risk his life for the other, without hesitation. This is why Larry, a widower, has no problem asking Chuck to be his pretend domestic partner so that, in the case of his death, Larry could leave everything to Chuck; a man he knows would do right by his two kids. The chemistry between the two actors is there, sure, but it's at this point the film reverts back to its one-joke premise, and not even a bunch of bizarre cameos can save it.
And when I say bizarre cameos, I'm not talking about the obligatory Rob Schneider appearance. Here, he plays the wacky Asian minister who marries Chuck and Larry in Canada. There's no originality there; it's basically the same Asian comic stereotype we've seen in countless films over the years. David Spade also pops up as one of many in-your-face gay men; the kind of guy who dresses up in outrageous outfits, licks his fingers and winks at every penis that walks by. The most random cameo has to be awarded to Dave Matthews, of The Dave Matthews Band. I won't ruin his lame appearance for you, but let's just say it's not much different from the rest. Problems arise for our newly gay couple when The Government becomes suspicious of them, sending out an awkward homophobic investigator (Steve Buscemi) to dig up some dirt on the two. It's at that time Chuck and Larry visit an attorney (Jessica Biel), but things become complicated when Chuck (a self-proclaimed man whore) realizes -- holy crap -- our attorney is hot. Thus begins a fairly comical back-and-forth between a guy who's falling in love with a girl who thinks he's gay -- another aspect of the film that was clearly helped by Payne and Taylor's writing.
Slowly but surely, the film goes from "hiding gayness" to "defending gayness" when word gets out that two of New York's hunky firemen play for the other team. Their Fire Chief (Dan Aykroyd) is probably the most suspicious, but his views on the situation don't come into play until it becomes time to wrap things up. But things don't really "wrap up" -- like with most Sandler comedies, everyone basically has a good laugh about the whole thing and fireworks go off. You know things are pretty bad when the most enjoyable set piece in the film revolves around the age-old "don't drop the soap" gag. It's at that point when you will never look at Ving Rhames (who plays a fellow firefighter hiding his own secrets) the same way again. All that being said, I'm fully aware that I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry will hit each audience member differently. Some might feel it presents a fresh take on homophobia, and that those men who steer clear of anything gay-related for fear it might make them less of a man should be ridiculed. But the film is so over-the-top -- to a point where there's not one gay character who isn't dancing, singing or eye-f*cking the nearest pedestrian -- that whatever real message it's trying to send gets lost. And everything in between is just typical Sandler-esque filler. While it might be enough to make you laugh -- like with the majority of his films -- it's far from memorable.
Man, am I glad seventh grade only happens once.