Universal // 2007 // 116 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 23rd, 2007
They're as straight as can be but don't tell anyone.
Adam Sandler (Billy Madison) and Kevin James (Hitch) team up for a comedy about two idiots doing everything in their power not to kiss each other.
Chuck (Sandler) and Larry (James) are two New York firefighters and best friends. They're also fiercely heterosexual, recoiling at any threat to their manliness. Chuck especially is a male whore, renowned for his numerous sexual conquests. After Larry saves his pal's life, Chuck pledges to do anything for him, and this favor is cashed in almost immediately. Because of a quirk in his pension plan, Larry's children are deprived of their benefits, so Larry cooks up the scheme to enter into a fake domestic partnership with Chuck.
Whatever, it made slightly less sense in the film. Regardless, the insurance company suspects the partnership may be fraudulent and launch an investigation into the couple, forcing Chuck and Larry to take their make-believe relationship to extreme levels. They also bring aboard a lawyer (Jessica Biel, Next) who is so smoking hot Chuck struggles to maintain the charade, even in the face of a bra and panties exhibition.
As the two dig themselves deeper and deeper into a lifestyle delusion, they'll find it harder and harder to uphold the façade, until it all comes crashing down when they're forced to go to court and put their true relationship to the test.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry wants to have it both ways, and that is no way meant to be taken as a pun. The film sports a dual personality: on one hand, it wants to be a message movie, tackling the issues of the gay community and how everyone is in fact a) gay or b) terrified of gays; on the other hand, it's a dick and fart joke comedy. Chuck and Larry fails on both counts.
As a message movie, Chuck and Larry is clumsy, simplistic and overwrought. I recall reading some sentiments that blasted the film as being anti-gay, but I found it quite the opposite. Sure Chuck and Larry and their boneheaded plans toss around epithets, but be sure that everyone Learns a Very Important Lesson and Grows as a Person. For example, in the beginning Chuck liberally tossed around the "F-word" (the new one, for those keeping up with the ever-changing taboo vernacular) but by the end he too Learns a Very Important Lesson and Grows as a Person and through an eloquent confession, publicly swears this particular derogatory remark off. The film is just packed with this type of sermonizing, and while I'm not criticizing the substance of these grandiose speeches, director Dennis Dugan's execution is so blunt and ham-fisted it does a disservice to people who articulate issues of the gay community with considerably more depth. Basically, the social commentary is crafted as if it were written by idiot 10-year-olds for idiot 10-year-olds. Corny.
Enough about that aspect. Let's turn to what the film really should be judged on, its ability to make you laugh. While I didn't sit stone-faced through the runtime, the funny-to-unfunny ratio was heavily weighted toward the "unfunny" side of the scale. A few jokes hit, but they're almost all the screaming, howling Adam Sandler-type of humor; if you're not a fan, then there's a chance Chuck and Larry will be a nuclear wasteland of comedy misfires. The film is strewn with physical gags (guffaw as the guys attempt to drag an obese guy out of a burning building!), toilet humor (gut laugh as the aforementioned obese guy fats on Chuck's face!) and milked-dry gay jokes (cringe as you are treated to not one but two "don't drop the soap" gags!); rarely do any of these work. And as the film lumbers to its finale, the humor is traded in for seriousness of the Very Important Lessons, so don't expect much chortling during the extensive court room sequences.
Simply put, Chuck and Larry just isn't funny and no matter how good the intentions are of the premise (itself pretty stupid when you think about it) or the monologues or the Growing, if the laughs aren't there, then what's the point?
I found the HD DVD version of the film a mild disappointment. The video presentation (1080p, 1.85:1) failed to impress. The color levels were robust (the Halloween party scenes was especially rich) but the overall detailing looked soft to me. It's an upgrade from the standard DVD look (DVD is on the flip side of this combo disc), but a far cry from HD's greatest hits. That being said, Jessica Biel in HD is never a bad thing. The audio fared better. The TrueHD and Digital Plus 5.1 tracks were clear and aggressive enough in some of the film's more active scenes (the fire rescue, the Halloween party) though the dialogue-heavy nature of much of the film confined the mix to the front channels.
The traditional extras were nice. Two feature commentaries accompany, a goofier track with James, Sandler and Dugan, and more relaxed, play-by-play with Dugan flying solo. A handful of short featurettes make up the rest of the standard bonus materials: outtakes, an interview-laden behind-the-scenes featurette, a look at the guest stars (including Dave Matthews, Rob Schneider and Richard Chamberlain), "Stop, Drop and Roll," a stunts featurette and a profile on director Dennis Dugan's directing style. As for high-def-specific extras, there's an in-movie friendship test, which is utterly disposable.
I laughed a few times, but not nearly enough to compel me to sit through this bumbling amalgam of farts and amateur moralizing ever again. The high-definition version is a step up, but not a huge step.
I now pronounce you annulled.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director's Commentary
* Friendship Test
* Cast Commentary
* Behind the Scenes Featurette
* Stunts Featurette
* Cameos Featurette
* Director Profile
* Web Content
* Official Site