I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry **
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Written by Barry Fanaro and Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Adam Sandler as Chuck Levine
Kevin James as Larry Valentine
Jessica Biel as Alex McDonough
Dan Aykroyd as Captain Tucker
Nick Swardson as Kevin McDonough
Ving Rhames as Duncan
Steve Buscemi as Clinton Fitzer
110 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language and drug references. (re-rated; originally rated R) )
If you look at the general information that I provided above, you will see that the writing credits are split into two. There is Barry Fanaro, a writer who I have never heard of before, and then there is the writing team of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. If you don't know who Payne and Taylor are, they are the writing team who have made three ingenious comedies-"Election," "About Schmidt," and "Sideways," with the former acting as the director. Now Payne hasn't had a film in three years now, and while I eagerly await whatever he is coming up with next, I have solved the mystery of where he went. He wrote an early early draft of what is now known as "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," and then at some point Adam Sandler got involved wit the project and, in the words of Alexander Payne, "not much of what we wrote is in the final draft. They got some guy to Sandler-ize it." And I guess that solves the mystery of who Barry Fanaro is.
Yes it's true. If you watch the film as it is now, you can't really find the bits of subtle humor and cynical touches that I am sure went into the original script. Instead of the obvious gay jokes that were involved, I'm sure the heart of Payne's script involved a buddy comedy (very much like "Sideways,") along with a decent, if not overdone, message of tolerance and not being arrogant. But that message, and the rare moments of actual decency, are crowded with the typical Sandler jokes-fat people, flatulence, and yes, gay people. Now I enjoyed many of Sandler's past films, but this one had one joke too many that was so obvious it was like Fanaro went to Gay Jokes 101 for all of the attempts at humor.
"I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" is about two firefighter friends in Brooklyn. There is Chuck, ladies man who can't keep it in his pants for two seconds, and then Larry, a recent widow who will do anything to protect his two kids-the sweet Tory, and the musical loving Eric. When Larry saves Chuck's life, Chuck owes him one-and Larry has the best way to get him to repay him. Marry him and collect better benefits. When it becomes apparent that Chuck and Larry did not convince the preliminary investigator, the two are forced to really move in together, and hire a lawyer in the form of Alex. And Alex is a female-and one that Chuck has the eyes for right away. And while Larry is trying his best to convince the seedy investigator Clinton Fitzer that he is indeed gay, Chuck is out befriending the hot lawyer putting everything in jeopardy.
Now lets see. There are a couple of real laughs placed all around the film, but the bulk of the film comprises of gay humor-and it goes to the most basic forms of gay humor that I can think of. The whole men sleeping in the same bed thing. The whole dropping the soap in the firefighter shower. The whole big intimidating guy actually being gay. Gay people dressing up in tight outfits. Even the soundtrack had the most basic "gay humor" songs, including "You're My Best Friend," and "Dancing Queen." And if you look really closely, although you just might miss it, there is even a "Brokeback Mountain" joke thrown in. And this is mainly what makes the film suffer, because in between all the decent laughs are just laughs at jokes I've seen. And most of the time I would only let out a chuckle because there was an appearance by a Sandler regular-David Spade and Rob Schneider among them. And I will admit that I miss the presence of "You can do it!"-the Adam Sandler film tag line that seemed to disappear after "The Longest Yard." And the script even manages to tack on a message of tolerance that I just felt did not need to be dragged down our throats. And the final courtroom scene was just a bit painful to watch-"if you are going to arrest them, you have to arrest all of us!" kind of thing.
The acting does not really need to be mentioned. Sandler does his Sandler thing, and I wish he continued what he somewhat promised he would do last year during "Click." Kevin James is not too bad in the more compassionate role as Larry. The jokes about him are mostly fat jokes, which is what makes "The King of Queens" suffer. Dan Aykroyd is pretty much just messing around-returning to a firehouse for the first time since "Ghostbusters," and Steve Buscemi popped up nicely-and he was a Sandler regular for a little while. But lets talk about Jessica Biel-or Jessica Biel's behind which makes more appearances than her face. There is no real business for her to be there except for the obvious reasons-give Sandler a love interest. I bet she had a more important role in the Payne/Taylor script, but here she is reduced to a lot of skimpy outfits, awful scenes of "chemistry" with Sandler, and painful lines of dialogue. And she is as convincing a lawyer as she was a pilot ("Stealth"), which is not at all. I also wished he continued what she promised last year with "The Illusionist," but we'll see about that. She still has time to break free from all of this. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" is not the worst film of the summer, but you really can do better. I am usually a bit lenient with the Sandler films-if I get a nice laugh it is usually alright in my book because what more can you ask for. But the redrafted screenplay for this was just too obvious or just too preachy. I am curious to what the Payne/Taylor version looked like, which is why I do not blame them much for the final product. I consider "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" to be a film written by Barry Fanaro, which Payne and Taylor are mere consultants, and I wish that they would just make another movie already and break the silence. And Sandler, this isn't your worst but its not your best. Shape up for the next one.