I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
That's the code of honor directing the actions of a rough-and-tumble group of Brooklyn firemen whose loyalty and camaraderie cement deep bonds of friendship. That's especially true for Chuck and Larry—best friends whose lives could hardly be more different outside the fire station. For Chuck, only one thing matters besides putting out fires: having as much sex as possible. Larry, on the other hand, is a widower and father of two still grieving the loss of his beloved wife three years after her passing.
When Larry discovers that bureaucratic red tape will prevent him from naming his grade school-age children, Eric and Tori, as beneficiaries of his pension should something tragic happen on the job, he panics. The only way to change beneficiaries, he's told, is to get married again ...
... or to form a domestic partnership, an idea Larry stumbles across in a newspaper article.
He decides to put the "whatever, wherever" creed to a strange test in this bizarre comedic mash-up about brotherhood and same-sex benefits. As Chuck and Larry pose as a gay couple—even traveling to Canada to get "married" in order to make their relationship seem more authentic—they're introduced to a whole new world as they become unlikely poster boys for homosexual domestic partnerships.
Their odd-couple charade is plagued by a pesky government investigator determined to prove they're not actually gay ... and the fact that Chuck falls in love with a beautiful (female) lawyer named Alex McDonough when they hire her to help them navigate the investigation.
Putting their money where their friendship is, Chuck and Larry demonstrate their willingness to do anything for each other early in the film. Larry saves Chuck's life in a burning building. Banter between these best buds and other fireman inform us that courageous decisions are just part of another day at the office for these brave men.
By going along with his friend's unethical and illegal farce, Chuck shows that he is loyal to Larry to a fault. But his deep affection for Larry and his children is nonetheless laudable. Chuck is also concerned that Larry hasn't ever been able to work through his grief following his wife's death, and he encourages his friend (sometimes crassly) to figure out a way to begin letting her go.
Larry cares deeply for Eric and Tori, but he's unsure how to deal with the fact that, despite still being in grade school, Eric displays stereotypically "gay" tendencies. Chuck encourages Eric to pursue his interests (drama, singing, tap dancing) in ways that Larry isn't able to do at first. Then, after a while, Larry learns to encourage his son even though he's not a baseball nut. (I'll write more about this father-son dynamic in "Sexual Content.")
Two scenes depict a group of what are implied to be religiously-motivated people protesting against homosexual behaviors. They're shown as mean-spirited individuals, especially a minister who uses a megaphone to blast the word "faggot" into Chuck's face. Signs read "Gay Is Not God's Way" and "God Made Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve." The so-called "Christian" protesters call Chuck and Larry and others fornicators who are on the road to damnation. Alex dismisses them as crazy freaks who want the rest of the world to be as unhappy as they are.
Passing (and joking) reference is made to Larry's housekeeper practicing voodoo.
You read the editor's note about lewd sexual content at the top of this review. It's not often that it's needed for movies that aren't rated R. But it doesn't even say enough about the PG-13-rated Chuck & Larry.
Right away we meet two barely clad sisters Chuck has slept with. To get them to stop fighting over him, he suggests they kiss—each other. (They're interrupted by the fire station's alarm bell.) Chuck gets picked up from the hospital by five girls in tight and revealing Hooters uniforms. Those girls, plus a doctor Chuck had verbally humiliated earlier in the day, go home with him and it's implied that they have group sex. After donning tiny patches of fabric sometimes called lingerie, they troop out of his bedroom and prance about for him—and the camera.
Indeed, Chuck and Larry have turned ogling into an art form. And Chuck has an ever-growing stash of sex dolls and hard-core pornography. To satisfy their lust, the script "allows" them to encounter a seemingly endless parade of women whose heads, hands and feet only appear onscreen because the director failed to figure out a way to detach their breasts and backsides from the rest of their bodies.
It's implied that Larry has sex with the housekeeper—while sharing the bed with Chuck. He informs Chuck that he got involved too, while he slept. And he eagerly fondles Alex's breasts when she challenges him to find out for himself if they're "real." Because she thinks he's not interested in women, she undresses in front of him first, and the camera lingers on her skimpy undergarments. Before the scene concludes, they begin kissing.
Chuck dubs a gay fundraiser, where many same-sex couples express affection and show lots of skin, "homopalooza." Similar images are seen at a "gay pride" parade. An extended shower scene at the fire station features firemen's bare backsides, not quite all of their frontsides—and a lot of "comedic" discomfort when Chuck and Larry show up. To raise awareness for AIDS, the firemen do a gay-themed calendar in which they pose in provocative positions and various stages of undress.
Chuck and Larry, among others, make nonstop references to homosexual sex, some mere allusions, some very graphic. In the process, we hear everything from slang references to genitalia to threats about prison rape.
Meanwhile, Eric is assigned the task of showing moviegoers exactly what a "gay" child looks and acts like—from wearing froufrou getups to becoming enthralled with dancing in a musical. (When Chuck shows the boy one of his porn mags, Eric runs away screaming.) It's implied that Larry's process of learning to accept his son's "proclivities" is symbolic of everyone's need to accept all homosexual behaviors.
Before this story lamely thumps into the closing credits, a mailman not only tells the guys he's gay, but crudely propositions Larry. And a fellow firefighter tells Chuck that his relationship with Larry has given him the strength to admit that he's gay and to "be true to myself." He says, "There's nothing worse than pretending to be something you're not." The big emotional finale? A "wedding" between that firefighter and Alex's butterfly costume-wearing brother.
Chuck coldcocks the minister who insults him. Larry tackles and pummels a man who tries to exclude him from Boy Scout campouts and Little League games. Eric punches a taunting classmate in the crotch.
Angry at a cabbie for calling them "f-ggots," Chuck and Larry grab him from behind and start slapping at his face. (The moving car spins out of control.) That's supposed to be funny, as is a scene in which a homeless man breaks his leg while dancing.
Chuck and Larry tumble down a flight of stairs along with a morbidly obese man they're rescuing from a burning building. Larry dives over Chuck to protect him from falling debris. Chuck and Larry regularly slap or hit each other.
Crude or Profane Language
About 75 total profanities, including more than a dozen s-words, misuses of God's name (once it's paired with "d--n"), and uses of "a--" and "h---." "F-ggot," "d--k" and other crudities and putdowns are routine.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Chuck grabs a bottle of liquor and starts drinking when Larry first suggests they become domestic partners. Other scenes show characters drinking wine, beer or liquor at home and at various public events (Chuck and Larry's "wedding," the fundraiser, etc.). A fire is started by a young man smoking a joint. In separate scenes, Chuck and another fireman smoke cigars.
Other Negative Elements
The marijuana smoker is "punished" for his misdeeds with blasts from a powerful fire extinguisher. Rancid jokes are made at the expense of the obese man. (Among them is one that alludes to him starting the fire by lighting his "farts.") A virtually unrecognizable Rob Schneider plays the part of an Asian wedding chapel operator whose overemphasized mannerisms and speech feels more than a little racist.
Until it's revealed that Chuck and Larry are not the "couple" they claim to be, they concoct elaborate lies to protect their pretense. They even lie to Larry's kids.
There are also "fart," defecation and urination groans, both visual and verbal.
Anybody who's ever even heard of Adam Sandler knows to expect crude and crass comedy when his name is associated with a movie. And when the title is I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," it would be foolish not to anticipate that the subject of homosexuality would be mined for all sorts of mean-spirited and sexually obsessed gags, giggles and gibes.
This latest Happy Madison production definitely delivers on those counts.
It also dispenses a heavy-handed endorsement of homosexual behavior. This is not "a big, flamboyant cartwheel backwards for gay rights," as Matt Pais argues in the Chicago Tribune's metromix.com. Coming closer to the truth is ReelViews' James Berardinelli: "It's a shock to the system when this example of puerile comedy turns into a pulpit-pounding sermon. The film's sledgehammer approach makes it more immature than earnest."
As Chuck and Larry masquerade as gays, they're exposed to increasing discrimination and harassment for the choice others think they've made. And Chuck & Larry rightly blasts those who treat others meanly and shabbily because they disapprove of what they do.
But one good moral (treating others with respect) does not lead to another here. In a final scene, Captain Tucker delivers the film's jaggedly determined apologetic for tolerance for anything and everything except intolerance, saying, "No matter who we choose to love, be they heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, bisexual, trisexual, quatrosexual, pansexual, transsexual, omnisexual, or that thing where the chick ties the belt around your neck and tinkles on a balloon, that has absolutely nothing to do with who we are as people."
The cheering crowd listening to his list doesn't grasp the irony that sexuality has everything to do with almost everything that's just happened. Chuck's sex drive absolutely consumes him. And the many, severely and sometimes absurdly stereotyped homosexual characters have only one dimension; the sexual identity they've chosen has quite literally turned them into cardboard placards declaring, "I'm gay. And that's all I am."
Neither do they understand that speeches such as those made by Captain Tucker (and movies such as this one) do more than support a particular social or political agenda. The real lesson they teach—with comedy serving as a Trojan Horse—is that you are the only person who can decide what is right and wrong for you. And if the individual is sovereign, no one else can dare comment on his or her choices.
In other words, to twist Chuck and Larry's code of honor inside out, "Whatever, whenever."