A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is a 2007 comedy. The premise is that Larry (Kevin James) needs his best friend and fellow NYPD fireman Chuck (Adam Sandler) to be his "domestic partner" so that Larry can name his kids as the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy after the untimely passing of Larry's wife. While arguably a mid-2000s attempt at addressing homophobia, any "wokeness" is overwhelmed by a movie that mines so much humor out of gay stereotypes. Besides jokes mined out of these gay stereotypes (for instance, Larry's son is strongly suspected of being gay because he prefers musicals and tap dancing to baseball, because apparently homosexuals don't play sports), there's also humor rooted in fat-shaming, as well as a particularly excruciating Asian stereotype, where a white man (Rob Schneider) is made to look "Asian" as he speaks in the stereotyped voice of an Asian man trying to speak English. Most of the women are presented as little more than sex objects. Sandler plays a womanizing, "hot" fireman who can apparently bed five women at once. Strong language throughout ("ass," "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch," "whore," "dick," "fatboy") as well as gay slurs ("f-ggot"). Even if tweens and younger teens are Sandler fans, they may be too young to separate the juvenile jokes from an underlying do-good message that gets overwhelmed by said juvenile jokes.
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What's the story?
The setup of I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY is simple: pudgy firefighter Larry (Kevin James) is a widower whose New York City fire department benefits can no longer be changed to make his kids his beneficiaries -- unless he remarries. Enter Chuck, a loud, offensive, womanizing firefighter. After Larry saves Chuck's life during a fire, Chuck tells Larry he owes him "anything" he wants. What Larry wants is a fake domestic partnership so the kids will be taken care of ... so, naturally, Chuck and Larry have to pretend to be gay life partners. At first, the charade is low-key -- a civil ceremony at a courthouse and a few weeks of Chuck's mail forwarded to Larry's address. But the pals have to really let their rainbow flags fly when the benefits department sends an intrusive auditor (Steve Buscemi) to find out whether they're trying to defraud the government. Enter gay-friendly defense attorney Alex (the lovely Jessica Biel), who believes her new clients, even though Chuck can't keep his bedroom eyes off of her. To kick up the facade a notch, the couple endures getting outed, literal "don't drop the soap" jokes in the firehouse shower, a ridiculous marriage ceremony in Canada, and their first taste of discrimination. All of a sudden, they realize how insensitive they've been in the past.
Is it any good?
For of all the movie's borderline -- and outright -- offensive laughs, there's a well-intentioned message of tolerance, diversity, and so on. Under so many layers of tired humor, the tiny kernel of wisdom easily gets lost, and its message about tolerance apparently doesn't extend to the obese (who are cheaply made fun of in the majority of Sandler's movies) and East Asians, who will no doubt cringe at the horrifying sight of Rob Schneider -- one of the many Saturday Night Live vets to cameo -- playing the Asian wedding officiant. With his bowl cut, buck teeth, and thick glasses (not to mention the awful accent) Schneider is the worst caricature of an Asian man in nearly half a century. On the bright side, at least there's a hilarious moment when a hitherto scary Ving Rhames starts belting out a Diana Ross tune in the shower. That alone is worth one star.
Adam Sandler is a comedian who occasionally astonishes audiences with his range (Punch-Drunk Love) and sincerity (The Wedding Singer). But, for the most part, he makes his living playing and acting the crass fool and this "comedy" is not one of the exceptions in the Sandler filmography. Even the addition of lovable everyman Larry Valentine, the Chuck factor dominates the movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the issues raised by the film -- particularly discrimination. Why do Chuck and Larry's firefighter friends start treating them differently once they're outed as a couple? What do Chuck and Larry learn about homophobia?
Does the presentation of female characters as being little more than sex objects eager to fulfill Chuck's every desire come across as necessary for the sake of comedically exaggerating Chuck's "Casanova" tendencies, or does it come across as humor rooted in lazy cliches?
Do the stereotypes in the movie (about gay people, overweight people, and Asians) detract from its intended message? Is it OK to use hate words in comedies? What would you have done differently if you were making this movie?
- In theaters: July 19, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: November 6, 2007
- Cast: Adam Sandler, Jessica Biel, Kevin James
- Director: Dennis Dugan
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language and drug references.
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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