I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007)

(On TV, August 2015)  Social progress can be measured in laws and statistics, but it’s also a matter of unsaid stereotypes and evolving culture.  Watching I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry eight years after its initial release, I’m stuck most strongly about the film’s uneasy relationship with gay stereotypes, as it presents two heterosexual men marrying for obscure (and frankly nonsensical) administrative benefits.  On one hand, the film is good-natured enough to (eventually) argue firmly in favour of progressive values, show homophobia in a bad light and affirm that sexual orientation isn’t something that should be discriminated against.  Coming from the mid-naughties, after Canada had legalized same-sex unions but before most of the US followed suit, that wasn’t too bad.  But then again I Now Pronounce You Chuck &  Larry crassly makes a lot out of stereotypes, characters spouting regrettable epithets and a barely-repressed attitude that “isn’t it hilarious to pretend to be gay???!?” as a freak-show.  I certainly hope that the very same plot wouldn’t be developed in the same way today.  It’s best to consider I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry as a relic of its time, at a moment when same-sex marriages were past reprobation, but well before they were normalized.  More shocking is the realization that this review spent nearly two hundred words discussing social progress before mentioning that this is an Adam Sandler film, and that he is more or less up to his usual crude shtick here. He is, of course, portrayed as a strongly heterosexual man (and the film stops just as a same-sex kiss with Kevin James was coming up.)  Don’t think that the film is all harmless: As disturbing than the gay stereotypes is seeing Rob Schneider in yellow-face, with a broad and unfunny imitation of an Asian character.  Otherwise, the dumb comedy of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry pales in comparison to its socially-risky premise: it’s all dumb gags, obvious developments, flat direction and an expected conclusion.  There may be something interesting to say about slipping a dose of progressive values to Sandler fans under the deceptive guise of a dumb comedy, but I’ll let others tackle that train of thought –I’ve blathered long enough about the film already.

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