The characters, Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and Larry Valentine (Kevin James), would be right at home recurring on SNL and probably would have become extremely popular.
Anyone going to see I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry will most likely not be expecting a brilliant screenplay, superb acting or anything original in terms of comedy. And that's good. At the heart of Chuck and Larry there is a somewhat inventive idea, but the filmmakers are too worried about offending anyone and their reticence makes the movie barely more than a chuckle-worthy joke.
In fact, it is hard to view Chuck and Larry as anything more than what could have been another failed Saturday Night Live sketch-turned-movie. The characters, Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and Larry Valentine (Kevin James), would be right at home recurring on SNL and probably would have become extremely popular. Also, the inundation of former SNL cast members keeps with the tradition of these cameo-laden movies.
If you've seen the previews for the movie, you know the plot and can most likely guess the ending. Chuck and Larry are best friends and New York City firefighters. Larry is a widower who wants his children to be his beneficiaries in case he dies. He can't get his policy changed unless he gets married, which he's not ready to do. He finds what he considers a loophole in the domestic partnership clause and enlists Chuck to help him in his charade.
When Larry's benefits department begins sniffing around, the new couple enlists the help of a random lawyer, Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), who asks not a single question of the two and blindly trusts these total strangers. Also, she's really hot and Chuck just can't help but get close to her.
The rest of the movie, Chuck and Larry deal with the benefits inspector, Clint Fitzer (Steve Buscemi), and his gay witch hunt and with Chuck's strong attraction to Alex. The gay-but-not-gay jokes abound and the actual gay characters are nothing more than stereotypes and caricatures of Will and Grace jokes pumped up on estrogen.
Written, at least in part, by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, the brilliant team who brought Election and Sideways to the big screen, Chuck and Larry fails on so many fronts that even these Academy Award-winning writers can't save it. The film's pro-gay themes and message are so transparent that it is almost comical when this ridiculously unrealistic movie actually tries to get serious.
Chuck and Larry is attempting to cash in on the new trend of movies coming from Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Judd Apatow, Sacha Baron Cohen, Kevin Smith and others that have raised the median age of the stars but still attract the 18- to 24-year-old demographic. The problem is that the movies from those just mentioned aren't afraid to offend if it justifies itself in the end. Chuck and Larry offends nearly everyone in some way or another, but tries to hide behind having a politically correct message at the end to save itself from protesters. In fact, Sandler and James screened the film for gay rights organizations before the film's opening to help dissuade any protests. Was Borat shown to the people of Kazakhstan prior to opening? Did Smith get an okay from Catholics before premiering Dogma? Did Apatow seek a stamp of approval while doing final edits on Knocked Up? The answer to all of these is "no."
Chuck and Larry will make you laugh because the jokes are mindless and easy to enjoy. It won't tug at your heartstrings even though there is plenty of soft music to indicate that it should. Sandler and James are fun to watch and are great on screen together, but that isn't enough for a whole movie and Chuck and Larry isn't worth your eight dollars. | Matthew F. Newlin