Starring Adam Sandler (Reign Over Me), Jessica Biel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Stealth) and Kevin James (TV’s King of Queens, Hitch), I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry starts out promising but dwindles into a less-than-average Adam Sandler vehicle.
To be honest, I really wanted to like this movie. In fact, there were times when I was really getting absorbed by the film, the characters and the story. We got to see more of James playing Larry Valentine than Sandler playing Chuck Levine. Whether it was by accident or intentional, there were moments these two well thought out characters were relatable – if not admirable. I liked seeing Sandler take a step down and let his fellow co-star take the spotlight – even if was just for the first third of the film. Also, for the first time ever, I thought Sandler had found a unique and distinctive character that really fit him like a glove. Of course, there was the simple reason of Jessica Biel standing in her undies in front of Sandler’s Chuck, wet and trembling from the cold. If that’s not a good enough reason for a straight guy to go see a movie, I don’t know what is.
Chuck is a womanizing, egotistical bachelor with hardly any morals or respect for women. If this character’s personality was kept on the sidelines, the film may have been a little better. He has trouble dealing with a pair of ladies, twins as a matter of fact. He has an entire entourage of women running out of his bedroom in their underwear. From that deep-seeded ornery place in every man – you know, the place that allows us guys to look up to Han Solo or even the Terminator as idols, this is extremely cool. Supposedly his character is so studly to women is because he once modeled with his shirt off for a calendar. Then the writers and or Sandler decide to give Chuck a complete makeover by turning him “gay” and making him more sensitive. A character with so many engrained masculine characteristics has to have enough screen time to make such a major transformation believable. It’s great to have a character change in a film, but not so suddenly and not without reason.
Larry is a heavyset widower with two children – one who has some suspiciously homosexual characteristics. Larry doesn’t have a lot of skills in parenting, especially where cooking is concerned. He’s your typical guy, super-sized for the big screen. Larry’s two kids mean enough to him that he’s ready to give up his job as a firefighter to ensure that he doesn’t die on the job, leaving them to be orphans. This is one of the best parts of the movie. Larry is so normal, average and decent, how can we not care? Soon Larry is trying to convince Chuck to go into an illegal situation where they may be defrauding the state of New York by posing gay in order to collect the benefits of marriage. This is where the filmmakers start making their mistakes. Not only does this ornery idea come off as offensive but nothing about this movie past its halfway point feels natural or effective.
Standup comedians will tell you that one of the biggest rules in comedy is timing. After the big “G” subject comes along, all of the timing that made the first third of the movie seem so cool was thrown in the trash. Characters and their shared dynamic that I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry successfully flesh out are tossed aside. Every stereotypical gay joke is rushed to the surface. Jokes become boringly clear, easily predicted, and badly timed. The filmmakers bring Sandler up as the main lead, introducing regular Sandler-vehicle faces like Rob Schneider and David Spade. Everything in the beginning is an illusion. It’s not a clever new style comedy with Adam Sandler as the co-star and the much more talented Kevin James as the lead. It’s just a normal, everyday, less than average Adam Sandler movie. It’s a formula. And, this is a formula that’s getting older and older, and more and more tiresome with each new Sandler-starring comedy. If you ask me, he belongs behind the curtain like Schneider or Spade.
Jessica Biel plays Chuck and Larry’s lawyer. Neither of the guys let her know what’s going on. They can’t. She would be legally bound to turn them in. Both of the guys quickly realize how hot she is. But it’s Larry who is truly smitten by her and her body. He starts spending more and more time with her. These moments that could be great to show how Larry is changing for the better are completely cut short in a montage of different scenes. Plus, their rapid – dare I say, half-assed approach to this romance leaves any and all believability at the door. You’re left with a hollow feeling. The actors don’t even seem convincing in their growing passion for each other. That’s sad, because I generally respect Biel for her performances.
Directing: Dennis Dugan has absolutely no ability to time jokes. I say, they should leave slapstick up to filmmakers like the Farrelly Brothers. Sandler’s usually hilarious punches, and even James’ shining moment in what could’ve been great fun come off more like having to watch gay-rights riots break out on the news. Rapid shots of the sexy Jessica Biel aren’t very original, well realized or even complimentary. Basically, Dugan’s approach is preachy, hackney and unfunny from start to finish.
Acting: I like Biel in a couple of scenes but they don’t give her enough time to fully appreciate her presence – whether it’s sexual in nature or not. They show us some great, promising talents from Kevin James in the beginning, and then practically kill off his character for the last ¾ of the film. Then there’s Sandler. When Sandler is expected to do something deep and profound, it’s like watching a monkey work a TV. His patented slapstick is starting to look like a train wreck. Whether it’s the directing or the writing or Sandler, those “surprising” punches are getting dull.
Writing: Simply put, the script is too preachy to be funny, and too silly to be profound.
Final note: I do not recommend I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry – not even to those die hard Sandler fans. It starts out fun and promising, but then the film starts to really suffer in a domino effect. Check out my other articles, you’ll see just how much I was looking forward to this ultimate crapshoot of a movie.