Larry Valentine (Kevin James) and Chuck Levine (Sandler) are two New York firefighters and best friends who are passionate about their job and have always covered each other’s back off duty and in the blaze. But when widower Larry finds out he’s not entitled to name his two kids as his life insurance beneficiaries, he seeks Chuck’s help on what seems to be the only solution.
The plan seems pretty simple: all Larry has to do to recover his benefits is claim Chuck as his domestic partner, and nobody will ever ask any questions. Chuck agrees after some firm resistance, and off they go on an improvised trip to Canada to tie the knot. And the scam seems to work at first, at least until an edgy bureaucrat (Steve Buscemi) becomes suspicious and starts dropping by for unexpected inspections.
What follows is pretty much standard and brainless comedy, with Chuck and Larry struggling to make everyone believe that they are a happy gay couple sharing a romantic and wildly sexual love. There is nothing wrong with the film’s initial message that one should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but it’s the way the filmmakers brought it to the screen that remains plain superficial and boring.
In what feels mostly like a repetitive preaching, all we get to watch is Adam Sandler talk about how one should never use the word “faggot.” Another line in the script suggests that whether we are “heterosexual, transsexual, homosexual, bisexual, tri-sexual or quadruple-sexual,” it doesn’t make us different as people. I hear Razzie Award!
Although the recurring homophobic and racist jokes may seem offensive at first, they merely serve as an opportunity to have Chuck and Larry jump into the scenes and save the day by defending gay rights. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, and again, it lacks panache. At this stage it should be mentioned that those responsible for the script are Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne, the geniuses behind “About Schmidt” and “Sideways.” Whatever happened to their skills and finesse, nobody knows.
It is obvious that Sandler and James had a ball filming “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” but it’s rather disappointing that couldn’t share any of those funny moments with their audience. Most of their primitive dialogues seem rehearsed, and their characters just don’t match. Unless you think a caring father and a guy who keeps his own brothel are a good match, I say this wedding is off.
Supporting roles include an unnecessary appearance by Jessica Biel, who plays Chuck and Larry’s lawyer and eventually becomes Chuck’s love interest, and a cameo by Rob Schneider, whose role as an Asian-American priest is yet another disgusting addition to history’s worst cinematic stereotypes. Dan Akroyd gets to throw a few lines too as Chuck and Larry’s chief, but his performance is probably a lot worse than his job in “Crossroads.”
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” is certainly an improvement on Dennis Dugan’s previous features “National Security” and “The Benchwarmers,” but we’re still miles of celluloid away from a solid comedy that uses sparkling humor and doesn’t completely rely on its lead actor to achieve box office glory. At least there’s barely any trace of slapstick this time, which counts as minor amelioration. Other than that, Chuck and Larry, get a divorce!
Review by Franck Tabouring