Credit: Tracy Bennett

At the moral high point of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, there’s still this: Chuck and Larry are grossed out by a kiss. In the midst of speeches about tolerance — as well as yuks wrung from jokes about the fat that clings to widower Larry (Kevin James) and the women who cling to single guy Chuck (Adam Sandler) — the hetero firemen, who are faking a homosexual domestic partnership for health insurance coverage for Larry and his kids, are urged to express their love for one another, at what is surely the weirdest fraud-inquiry hearing ever to take place even in weird-friendly Brooklyn. Whereupon the two pucker like they’re facing the gallows; the prospect is just that yucky.

So if I’m reading the ”message” right in this lumbering, time-warp disco of a comedy about the heroism of firefighters, the preciousness of male bonding, the sanctity of family, and the glory of Jessica Biel’s proudly real breasts, it’s that gay men are marvelous, exotic, and hilarious creatures who have every right to equality under the law. And that it’s very hurtful when they’re discriminated against. Or beaten up. Or even shunned in communal firehouse showers, where straight colleagues are scared to pick up a dropped bar of soap. But if it’s all the same to you, being straight is, you know, more regular. And, like, whew.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into a slab of honking Sandler comedy, made for an audience already predisposed to laugh when, early in the story, Chuck and Larry rescue an obese bed-bound man during a fire. (The massive fellow rolls on top of them! And then farts!) Or when Chuck finds himself attracted to Alex (Biel), the lawyer defending the couple against a suspicious insurance fraud investigator (Steve Buscemi), and gets invited to assess Alex’s assets, ”girlfriend” to girlfriend. (Tootsie got there a quarter century ago, with more class.) But I can’t shake the musty odor of comic overexertion coupled with Hollywood nervousness that wafts up from every scene. When the pair go shopping for items to gay up their home, naturally they grab lubricating gel from the personal products shelf. Don’t all The Gays? That the movie, directed by Happy Gilmore helmer Dennis Dugan, received a script revision by classy Sideways talents Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor does dismayingly little to up the sophistication quotient.

Anyhow, it’s not until Chuck and Larry actually experience discrimination that they begin, in their audience-safe, Neanderthal way, to understand what victimhood feels like. Myself, I felt victimized by the stereotype shtick of reliably grating Rob Schneider as a Canadian-Japanese wedding-chapel minister from SNL castoff hell. But maybe that’s just because this movie encourages sensitivity by hitting everyone over the head with its humor hammer.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 110 minutes
  • Dennis Dugan