King of Queers
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | July 20, 2007 | Comments ()
Are you like me? Are you tired of the sudden growth of films that treat homosexuals as actual people with actual, complex emotions? Isn’t it disgusting? It’s vile, right? Hetero-torture porn. I mean the way, for instance, that Brokeback Mountain depicted two men not only falling in love with one another, but actually doing the anal tango? Blech! It’s an affront to God-fearing breeders like you and me, am I right? Can you believe the studios are cramming that shit down our throats? Subjecting us to an immoral, heathenistic lifestyle? Seriously: I think I just threw up in my sphincter a little. It’s uncalled for — the plumbing just doesn’t work. If God wanted men to use the rear door, he would’ve stitched on an ass labia. Am I right? There’s a reason God invented AIDS, and it wasn’t so that cubicle monkeys could guilt you into ponying up $5 to sponsor a co-worker’s effort to walk around a track a few miles and wear a pretty ribbon. (Clearly, the walk-a-thon industry was behind the spread of the disease).
That’s why a movie like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is so refreshing in today’s studio marketplace. It’s a classic comedy throwback to films like the side-splittingly funny Boat Trip or bit characters in Bruckheimer films, like Anthony Clark’s gay hairdresser in The Rock. Hell, I haven’t seen a take on the queer lifestyle this funny since Mr. Roper retired his limp wrist after “Three’s Company” ended its run. And what’s really smart about Chuck and Larry is that it doesn’t try to make us feel uncomfortable or squeamish by introducing gay characters that heterosexuals might find relatable — there’s no intimacy (thank God, too — I understand the MPAA gives R ratings to films that feature guys making out) or anything that really offers the sickening impression that gays are real people (shudder). Instead, gays are depicted as gays should be: Screaming queens, effeminate flamers who wear butterfly costumes, sing “I’m Every Woman” in the shower, and listen to George Michael and Queen. You know: Punchlines to sodomy jokes. People we can sort of shove off into society’s corner and laugh at occasionally during an episode of “Will and Grace,” but not anyone with whom we’d actually hang out or share a beer. I hope that doesn’t make me sound homophobic or anything, because really I’m not— seriously, I have a gay friend. And he told me that gays don’t drink beer, anyway.
The genius of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is in its premise: Two male firefighters, Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James), get hitched so that they can share domestic partner benefits. And therein lies the comedic gold: There are no gay firefighters in America. I mean, seriously: Who would believe that? Firemen shower together. They hold big hoses and shake them around merrily. They slide down freakin’ poles, people. Gay people don’t do that. And that’s why Chuck and Larry works — we’re never led to believe that homosexuality is an actual threat to our nation’s fire departments, because if there’s one thing that I couldn’t bear, it’s the notion that some muscle-bound chubby chaser might pull me from 20 foot flames and bring me to safety (seriously: If there are gay fireman out there and you’re called to my house, just let me and my family perish with a little dignity, please). The thought makes me sick, and it makes Bruce Springsteen sick, too.
Chuck is one of those awesome guys who hangs out at Hooters (have you tasted their wings!) and has sex with twins (Boo-Yah!) until his best friend at the fire department, Larry, saves his life. In exchange, Chuck agrees to marry him so that he can become the beneficiary of Larry’s estate in the event of his death, a measure he takes to protect his two kids, one of whom is every father’s worst nightmare: A preadolescent homo-chicken chaser who sings show tunes, dances, and squeals when he sees porn. After a sweetastic orgy with, like, 12 Hooters chicks and his bombshell doctor, Chuck reluctantly agrees, so long as their pact remains their secret shame.
Unfortunately, a gay inspector of some sort begins probing (ha! No pun intended) around into their arrangement, forcing the two to not only cohabitate but to make their partnership official, which they do by traveling to Canada and getting hitched in a civil ceremony conducted by a hilarious Japanese guy who can’t pronounce his Ls (I didn’t even realize, until the credits began to roll, that the Japanese guy was actually the Greatest Actor of Our Generation, Rob Schneider). They also hire a lawyer, played by Jessica Biel (woo hoo! Boobies! Boobies!), to help them defend their arrangement. Chuck, because he appreciates a nice rack when he sees one, actually ends up falling for the lawyer, which creates all sorts of friction in Chuck and Larry’s fake marriage, with expected comedic results. Later, even Chuck and Larry’s buddies at the fire department disown them, thinking that they’re actually gay (as they have every right to do — you don’t want some dude grabbing your ass while you’re in the trenches, am I right? And those gays are completely indiscriminate when it comes to men — a dick is a dick. That’s what my gay friend told me, anyway).
The script, rewritten by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Sideways, About Schmidt, Election) is thankfully toned down considerably by Barry Fanaro’s mainstream handiwork. Unfortunately, around the time that Larry tries to prove a point with his fire department with some rhetorical sarcasm (don’t you hate that — it’s so fucking obnoxious), Chuck and Larry starts to unravel, as Payne’s original intent starts to seep through a little bit: Something about tolerance for gays, a sermonizing message I tried to block out, which wasn’t that hard to do because the film seemed to suggest that homos are only mildly tolerable if they’re of the masculine variety, like Ving Rhames, a sentiment I sort of agree with. I mean, if you have to ride the dude train, at least be a gay guy who watches baseball and wears track suits, am I right? That way, I don’t know about it and the property values in my neighborhood aren’t affected. The problem I had with the sermon, however, was that Sandler’s Chuck outright suggested that “faggot” wasn’t an acceptable way to refer to gays. Well, that’s bullshit. Just ask my gay friend.
There is a scene during the last few minutes, however, when it looks like Chuck and Larry is about to go pear shape, during one of those awesome courtroom scenes that Sandler films have a tendency to utilize, when the gay inspector (Steve Buscemi) insists that Chuck and Larry kiss to prove their love to one another. And they almost do it, too — something that probably would’ve had me and half the audience in Ithaca’s new Regal 14 (today was the grand opening!) barfing up our very heterosexual breakfast foodstuffs onto the shiny new carpet. Fortunately, their lips never touch, saving the theater from a grand opening carpet-cleaning catastrophe. I go to the movies to escape the ails of this great country of ours, not to confront them. So, just to put all of your minds at ease, I offer this tiny spoiler: No men actually kiss in Chuck and Larry. As a nation, we’re just not ready for it — and God willing — we’ll never be.
Rick Santorum in ‘08!
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. Whenever Rob Schneider is in a film, he can’t help but to resort to hyperbole. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.