Over the years, Adam Sandler has had his share of “iffy” movies. To many, he is an acquired taste. You either like his brand of humor or you don’t. One of the movies that fall into this iffy-ness is 2007’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, which can now be seen on Netflix in the USA. It carried controversy with it back then and most certainly carries controversy today.
The movie stars Adam Sandler as Chuck, a womanizer, and a firefighter. Long-time co-star Kevin James is Larry, also a firefighter who is reeling from the death of his wife. Yes, this is a comedy. Anyway, as the movie begins, the two are in a burning house when Chuck finds himself trapped when the floor collapses. Larry is on hand to save his buddy which prompts Larry to tell Chuck he will repay his friend any way possible.
Because of the scary event, Larry decides to increase his life insurance policy. While doing so, he is told that his policy lapsed during the time of his wife’s death. The insurance company rep then suggests that Larry should get remarried so Larry can name her the beneficiary. Problem is, there is no one in Larry’s life. But Larry has an idea.
After reading about domestic partnerships in the newspaper, Larry takes his idea to Adam Sandler’s character. They come together in a civil union, entering into a domestic partnership so Chuck can be Larry’s beneficiary as Larry knows Chuck would do right for his two children. Of course, Chuck is a no-go on the idea. That is until Larry reminds him of Chuck’s promise to repay him in any way possible.
Chuck finally agrees and the two enter into their domestic partnership. All seems well until investigators arrive to look into suspected fraud. Chuck and Larry then hire a beautiful lawyer, Alex (played by Jessica Biel) who suggests to them they should have a formal wedding to prove their love and commitment. They do.
As time goes on, Adam Sandler’s character begins to find interest in Alex, but since he is “gay” and “married”, Alex only sees him as a good friend. They eventually share a kiss that shocks Alex more than anything, causing her to back away from Chuck. Meanwhile, Chuck and Larry’s friendship is truly tested when the firehouse finds out about their marriage. They are shunned by all, though one intimidating firefighter, Fred (Ving Rhames), secretly tells Chuck and Larry that he is gay but has never felt comfortable telling anyone.
Life becomes even more complicated and Larry’s life insurance policy is back under attack when the true secret of Chuck and Larry is revealed.
Many of the usual suspects are on hand for this remarkably unfunny Adam Sandler film. Steve Buscemi, Nick Swardson, Allen Covert, Dave Matthews, Dan Patrick, and even a couple of uncredited appearances from David Spade and Rob Schneider. The problem with the movie is, again, it just isn’t as funny as it could be. In fact, what shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, was critically reviled, with most naysayers leaning on how homophobic the Dennis Dugan-directed movie actually is. Stephen Garrett from Time Out says, “It’s a set-up as muddled as the sexual politics of this mortifying would-be comedy,” while Mike Massie from Gone with the Twins remarks, “Rather tepid when it comes to challenging conventional depictions of homosexuality in a generic, comic environment.”
Duggan was handed $85 million for this attempt at funny and somehow, the movie actually brought in $187 at the box office and was actually number one during its first weekend of release.
Because of the movie’s content, producers decided to screen the movie for GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) before its premiere. They agreed that the movie had the expected stereotypes but ultimately, “in its own disarming way, it’s a call for equality and respect.”
The one person who had the most issue with the final version of this Adam Sandler film was screenwriter Alexander Payne, who penned the script, but eventually wanted to have his name removed from the final credits. The initial script, co-written by Payne and Jim Taylor bears little to no resemblance to the finished film, prompting noted movie critic Manohla Dargis to question via Vulture, just what the hell are Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor’s names doing on this movie?
“It’s next to impossible to reconcile Mr. Payne and Mr. Taylor, who excel in sharply honed, intelligent satire, with the crude laughs and nyuck-nyuck physical high jinks that characterize Chuck & Larry,” Dargis writes. There were vast changes made to the script once Adam Sandler got his hands on it, one of the main changes was that in the initial script, it was Larry who was supposed to get the girl and not Sandler’s Chuck. Apparently, though, Sandler does quite a bit of “polishing” when he gets his hands on scripts he wants to make into movies.
Adam Sandler movies, as with most that come from his Happy Madison company, are “mood” movies. As in you really need to be in the mood sometimes for his brand of comedy. It isn’t for everyone. For every funny Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, and 50 First Dates, he throws in the awful Little Nicky, Jack & Jill, The Ridiculous 6, and The Week Of. Hit or miss, funny or dreadful. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between when it comes to Sandler comedy.
If you haven’t seen I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, give it a whirl. Controversy aside (not sure if it could be made in today’s environment), let us here at GFR know if this Adam Sandler movie is your brand of comedy.