I Now Pronounce You the Worst Movie Ever
It never fails. Whenever I give a bad review to a film whose awfulness is beyond question – something like The Benchwarmers or Final Destination 3, I get an e-mail from someone saying, in effect: ‘Your expectations were just too high.’ Since this week I’ll be talking about a movie called I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, let me disabuse you of this notion right off. When I know I have to spend two hours on a Friday seeing a gay panic movie starring Adam Sandler and the unfunny one from “The King of Queens” – and I don’t think I can emphasize this enough – my expectations are low. Very, very low. As it turns out, not low enough. The problems with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry are evident from the get-go, starting with the fact that the film’s premise is right out of a passed-over sitcom pilot. The titular male leads, New York firefighters played by Sandler and Kevin James, stage a phony domestic partnership so Larry, a widower with two children, can shift his benefits to his kids in case he dies in the line of duty. The comedy ensues, of course, by watching two macho straight men try to appear gay while vainly attempting to preserve their masculinity. I’m sure your sides are already splitting. In the telling of this story, as you would probably expect, Chuck and Larry trots out pretty much every regressive stereotype in the hack writer’s playbook, which leads – drum roll, please – to boring, predictable comedy. There’s the standard argument over which man would be the top and which would be the bottom, y’know, um, hypothetically; the gay nightclub scene; even an interminable riff on the ol’ “who-dropped-the-soap?” joke. The fact that the film omits any reference to “gaydar” is, quite frankly, inexplicable. For all intents and purposes, Chuck and Larry is a pretty standard Adam Sandler comedy: stupid on the outside, gooey in the middle, sub-mental through and through. It has all the hallmarks, right down to the grotesque Rob Schnieder cameo (as a buck-toothed, goggle-eyed Asian, who – waaaait for it – can’t pronounce ‘r’ sounds. You know your comedy is on the ropes when you’re aping Opie and Anthony bits). All of this, somehow, is in service of A Big Life Lesson, which like the rest of the movie is fundamentally insulting. Chuck and Larry, casually homophobic at the outset, learn through their little experiment – surprise, surprise – that it hurts when people call you ‘faggot,’ and that it’s no fun living a double life, as so many gay people have to do. I don’t want to be too blunt here, but if you’re an adult in the year 2007 and you still have to be told either of those things, you’re beyond help by the likes of Chuck and Larry. Nobody – nobody – is going to walk away from this thinking, “Y’know, I used to hate gay people, but that Chuck and Larry movie really opened my eyes.” Nobody. Now, maybe Sandler knows this, and maybe he doesn’t. What he does know is that gay jokes are hi-frickin-larious, so that’s what the movie is. There are a lot of scowling manly-men who turn prissy at the first hint of a disco beat; a lot of people saying things like “fierce” and “girlfriend.” The list, embarrassingly, goes on. Sandler has proven in at least one previous film that he has a keen eye for dramatic subtlety, but he has yet to employ that same restraint in his comedy (perhaps at the risk of alienating the legion of Big Daddy fans out there). Not that I’d expect subtlety from a film titled I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, but I’m sure there are much more comically relevant ways to explore sexual identity in this day and age. I like to think we’ve at least moved beyond watching two unfunny goons squeal at the idea of gay love for an hour and a half and calling it comedy.
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