I try to make it a point to watch any and all gay-themed titles heading out to theaters or on DVD whenever possible, not just because I myself am gay, but the films can help be a gauge of where we are in the struggle for equal rights. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry wants to be an understanding comedy for the “Joe six-pack” crowd that would presumably flock to the movies to see Adam Sandler as a faux queer. Unfortunately, along the way we have to suffer through incredibly tasteless and unfunny jokes aimed not only at gays, but African-Americans, women, Asians, fat people and who knows who else. Maybe if you’re Mel Brooks or the Farrelly Brothers–maybe–you can get away with this broad crude humor done in a burlesque style, but director Dennis Dugan is no Brooks. He’s not even a Dennis Dugan of old (which I’ll explain later) when dealing with homosexuality in this awful comedy.
The basic premise is that Larry (Kevin James) and Chuck (Adam Sandler) are best friends working side-by-side for years as Brooklyn firefighters. Larry’s a widower who’s about to be screwed out of his benefits for his two kids if he doesn’t find a marrying partner quickly. Thus, he talks his womanizing best pal into registering as his domestic partner (in an incredibly unconvincing scene) and later into marrying him. Of course, the suspicious Feds have to be hot on their trail poking around in Chuck and Larry’s garbage to create some sort of contrived antagonist.
What would a comedy about straights playing gay be without the cliched scenes like “are you going to share the same bed with me” gag and “here’s the part where they are both about to kiss” joke. The latter yuk is shown two different times with each one handling Chuck and Larry’s potential kiss as though these guys were diffusing an atomic bomb instead of swapping smooches. It’s cheap, ridiculous hyperbolic tension intended to get the audience screaming in disbelief that these macho guys are going to actually swap spit! This bullshit might have been funny to audiences in 1970 or even earlier, but now it seems really tired and desperate.
Other scenes that should make the Brooklyn Fire Department consider a defamation lawsuit include one of the most sexist I’ve seen in a long time. Chuck gets seriously injured is rushed to the hospital and is treated by a young female doctor he calls “Dr. Honey.” His firefighter buddies stop by to further demean her by leering like they were the Porky’s high school boys. Incredibly, the same doctor shows up later at Chuck’s apartment dressed in a skimpy negligee, proving once again that in many Hollywood movies, smart professional women are not much more than hoes waiting to let it all out.
After the movie trods along this type of Neanderthal muck for two-thirds of its running time, we suddenly get “the change,” telling us they were only kidding about being racist, sexist and homophobic before. I get really pissed when this happens. It’s an indication the writers and filmmakers don’t have the brass balls to finish what they start and are being coy with their prejudices. Examples: we get to see Chuck supporting the dancing aspirations of Larry’s son (Larry was nervous about the queerness of this hobby before–nice message for boys, eh?); Chuck and Larry attend a gay rave and even punch out the leader of an anti-gay group protesting outside the club (yeah, that happens every night in New York City), in a scene that reflects the worse type of pandering patronizing to gays I’ve seen in a very long time. The stars and writers (including Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor–WTF?!) know they’re not being genuine about the “reform,” and we know it too.
This movie is so bad, it can’t even (or perhaps is too lazy to) hide the fact that they steal scenes from better gay movies. The movie’s most intimidating character comes out of the closet in a scene lifted right out of Victor/Victoria and the entire climatic courtroom scene–one of those “gather-the-community-’round-so-the-secrets-can-come-out” type events–is so embarrassingly like In & Out, it has to be proof the filmmakers thought that no beer-drinkin’ Joe ever saw the Kevin Kline comedy. But the most heartless and tasteless scene in the entire movie is an obvious reference to Brokeback Mountain when Larry holds a shirt owned by his deceased wife and sniffs it, mocking the pacing and the movement of the tragic film.
I’m almost done ranting about this swill, but I want to point out one more thing. Director Dennis Dugan starred in a gay comedy thirty years ago called Norman, Is That You? It’s a bad comedy to be sure, but it doesn’t stretch credibility to the breaking point like this new film. In it, he played a gay character with some humanity and genuine love. I have to wonder what he was thinking when he was making this film. Did he try to learn from the mistakes of the previous movie or subsequent ones? Did he have any say whatsoever in this (if not, I would tend to blame Sandler for this mess since it’s his production company behind Chuck and Larry)? Can he find an openly gay actor who actually understands what it’s like to be closeted and come out or at least someone much more gay-positive for any future gay comedies? Please?