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If nothing else, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry will prove to audiences nationwide just how good it is to be Adam Sandler. Not only do you get to turn mindless fart, fat and sex jokes into box-office gold, but you get to write yourself a role as an over-sexed, irresistible firefighter who has to fondle Jessica Biel’s breasts in the name of science...BRAVO!
Unfortunately, I spent more time playing a makeshift Where’s Waldo game with all of Sandler’s lackeys (“Hey look, there’s the coach from The Water Boy! ”) than I did actually enjoying the movie. It’s a shame because I really wanted to like the film, especially because the premise is so promising. I mean who hasn’t thought of creating a fake domestic partnership to dupe the IRS and reap financial benefits? But even with this golden concept, Sandler somehow manages to botch the script. I’m not asking for an Oscar-winning plot or anything (a hockey player joining the golf pro-tour certainly wasn’t Academy material), but even with the help of Sideways writers Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sandler couldn’t create a coherent, comedic storyline.
We first meet firefighters Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and Larry Valentine (Kevin James) during a heated department basketball game, which segues into a heated battle between two sexy twins vying for Chuck’s attention (ridiculous moment number one.) Saved by the fire alarm, the company heads to a burning apartment complex where Chuck and Larry rescue a bed-ridden four hundred pound man who subsequently flattens and farts on Chuck (ridiculous moments two through four.) Right away, the film sets the bar low even for lowbrow humor.
As Chuck continues to frolic with Hooters waitresses galore, Larry mourns his late wife, while struggling to control his tomboy daughter, tap-dancing son, and unruly housekeeper. When a routine safety inspection goes awry, landing both Chuck and Larry in the hospital, Larry realizes he needs ensure that his children are provided for if something should happen to him. Only Larry waited three years to designate his children as his pension beneficiaries, so the quirky benefits supervisor (horribly overplayed by SNL’s Rachel Dratch) insists that the only way to expedite the process is to remarry (ridiculous moment seventeen million.)
Larry quickly decides that his only two options are quitting the force, or forming a domestic partnership with Chuck so that he’ll retrieve custody of Larry’s children and pension if the worst should happen (do I need to keep the ridiculousness counter going?) Chuck reluctantly agrees to the partnership on the condition that it remains on paper only, but when a sniveling fraud inspector (Steve Buscemi) starts to contest their claim, Chuck and Larry are forced out of the closet. During their “ride on the dude-train,” Chuck and Larry turn to sexy lawyer Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel) to help establish their legitimacy as a couple. This of course is especially hard for Chuck who is relegated to “gay-best-friend” status with the first woman he’s actually interested in seriously dating. Meanwhile Chuck and Larry exhaust every homosexual stereotype possible, and start to realize just how difficult it is to be different.
Somehow teetering the line between horribly offensive and after-school-special, Chuck and Larry lacks the underlying wit that made Sandler’s earliest films such quotable favorites. Sure there’s plenty of potty humor, including an unabashed drop-the-soap-in-the-shower scene, but where there’s an opportunity to be edgy, Chuck and Larry resorts to cliché. Really, homosexuals like The Village People? Weird! While Sandler’s signature slapstick moments are still chuckle-worthy, the film is awash in unintentional comedy, especially in the ludicrous courtroom scene that reaches a pedantic climax when Chuck preaches about using offensive slurs.
As usual, the flick is bursting with cameos, though Ving Rhames’ firefighter with a secret is the only enjoyable one. Not that anyone expects Rob Schneider to be funny after The Animal, but his bit part as an Asian minister is too lame to even be offensive. Really, Asians sometimes confuse L sounds and R sounds? Weird! Kevin James brings the same genuine lovability to Larry that made his character in Hitch so compelling but Sandler is less convincing as Chuck, probably because James took over the self-deprecating humor that Sandler mastered in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. Meanwhile, the script doesn’t take advantage of their hysterical chemistry, exchanging the genuinely funny moments where Larry and Chuck act like a real married couple, for a series of butt slaps and fat jokes that get old way too fast.
More Grandma’s Boy than Happy Gilmore, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is still funny, it’s just a mindless sort of humor that has mass-audience appeal but isn’t really that entertaining. The entire film just feels phoned-in, like Sandler knew he’d make a ton of money even if the story made no sense whatsoever. I’m not even sure why he bothered to act in the film instead of dropping the role on one of his friends…oh wait, Jessica Biel…breasts…now I remember.