Film Review: Learning tolerence from intolerance

By Stephanie Mamayson

The Cannes Film Festival has come and gone and golden Oscar has been put away until next spring. With the masses taking refuge in air conditioned cineplexes, summer movie mania is going full tilt. Films released during this season tend to weigh light on complex story lines and deep, compelling characters, instead going for visceral entertainment and obvious amusement. These expectations are fortunate since I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry probably won’t be collecting awards any time soon.

Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and Larry Valentine (Kevin James) are two Brooklyn firefighters and best friends that would do anything for each other. Family man Larry is a widower having a hard time letting go and Chuck is Mr. February, a playboy enjoying the single life. When an unfortunate technicality prevents Larry from naming his children as his pension beneficiaries, he sees only one logical conclusion: domestic partnership. Since Chuck is indebted to Larry for saving his life, he has no choice but to agree. In Larry’s mind the plan seems simple enough, but when an over-eager and nosy investigator (Steve Buscemi) starts to poke around, the couple is forced to improvise and take their well-intentioned charade to the next level.

Sandler’s usual posse reprises their accustomed roles as secondary characters, this time playing fellow firefighters who act as a Greek chorus, mirroring the ignorant and homophobic general population. Throw in a surly boss (Dan Aykroyd), an exaggerated ethnic stereotype (Rob Schneider) and a hot, leggy lawyer who bonds with the presumably-gay Chuck (Jessica Biel), and the comedic formula is complete. That likely equation makes for watered-down humor and expected chuckles.

While this movie tries to make some headway into creating a more understanding society, it does so using the very stereotypes that foster prejudice and discord, falsely hoping that the end will justify the means. A bright spot is that Kevin James-much like his role in the recent Will Smith vehicle Hitch-manages to play another endearing chubby man who is only trying to take care of his kids in spite of bureaucratic red tape. It’s a shame that, like in Hitch, James is relegated to sidekick status while Sandler gets paid to grope Jessica Biel. Nevertheless, the recent insurgence of a more mature age in comedy may mean Sandler and Co.’s cheap “pull my finger” tricks have gone the way of the horse and carriage.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry may not have the big budget special effects of its other summer counterparts but its cheesy easy way of tying up all the loose ends into a “happily ever after” is as outlandish as wizards and robots. This film is wrought with the predictable gags and cliched jokes one often anticipates from a Happy Madison production. Yet in its own backwards way, Chuck and Larry still manages to pull morals out of the story, preaching about tolerance and sticking together as the true mark of a family.

Leave a comment