It’s too bad that politics or a controversial issue can cloud someone’s judgment about a movie, especially when some people will not watch one because they disagree with the premise or believe the film is promoting an agenda. I understand having a negative opinion of individual entertainers (after all, whose intelligence is NOT insulted by Sean Penn and his outhouse opinions?), but not to enjoy a film because of its subject isn’t good. Today I’m taking a look at “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and its subject matter makes more for division than it does allow for enjoyment of a great comedy and the best turn in a film by Kevin James.
‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’
(2007; 115 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Denis Dugan and starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James and Jessica Biel)
BETTER THAN YOU’D THINK FROM ADAM SANDLER
I’ll avoid making any philosophical judgments of “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” but I will review the film because it is truly funny – and it cannot be funny without being creative and without making its point by being strident or by the usual bullying technique of looking down at an audience.
Of course “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” addresses gay marriage and assorted issues and I’m not going to express an opinion by taking sides since no one will ever agree to a middle ground on the subject. I’m just going to say that this is a very funny, entertaining film in the usual Adam Sandler vein (equally good as “Just Go With It” – click here for my review) and has some nice drama to toss into the mix, too.
If anything, almost as divisive as the topic is that it is an Adam Sandler film. However, unlike some of his films, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” actually has some depth. However, some people love his comedy; others hate it. There’s little middle ground on this issue, too.
To set the scene in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” … it’s the story of two friends who are fellow firefighters. One is promiscuous (I’ll let you guess which one) and the other is a family man whose wife died a couple of years previously. Due to his grief, the one firefighter didn’t complete the proper paperwork within a deadline so that his two children would be his beneficiaries in case of a disaster on his high-risk job.
Enter the issue of marrying his best friend – by doing that he could change his beneficiary. Then the hilarity really begins. From meeting with a beautiful attorney (Jessica Biel in a wonderful turn) who becomes the attraction for one to a fellow gay firefighter coming out of the closet or even to their wedding, the two carom from one thing to another like pinballs before landing before a civil hearing about their union (they’re accused of falsely using a civil union as a couple to gain benefit in the bureaucracy).
In the end, like most comedies, every one’s happy (except the scuzzy little bureaucrat so beautifully played by actor’s actor Steve Buscemi) and it’s all tied up neatly when the credits roll.
The most effective scene is the civil hearing at the end and showcases actual acting ability of Sandler and co-star Kevin James. Director Dennis Dugan does a marvelous job balancing all the elements that need to come into play to make the scene work. The other part to note is the chemistry between Sandler and James, who manage to do a good job of squabbling like an old married couple.
Here’s a rundown of the highlights of the film through the principal cast:
- As headliner and character “Charles Todd ‘Chuck’ Levine,” Sandler gets the over-the-top part as the womanizing, free-wheeling bachelor who’s the last guy you’d think would settle down (much less with another guy). As he usually does, Sandler doesn’t disappoint – he’s engaging and funny. What he does very well here is give his character some depth (and this isn’t something ever said about his movie roles). Of course my favorite Sandler film is the golf classic “Happy Gilmore” (click here for my review).
- James as “Lawrence Arthur ‘Larry’ Valentine” makes a good mark here and that’s nice since you probably judge him more for the poor performance he gave in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” James is funny, but he doesn’t get a hit every time up. He does a good job here with switching between emotions and he gives solid support (even as a co-star) with Sandler. James is best remembered for TV’s “The King of Queens” and was in “Hitch” with Will Smith.
- Biel, who plays attorney “Alex McDonough,” is the calm, strong female lead in the film. She shows her acting strength with a solid, smooth performance that keeps up in the face of the antics of Sandler. “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” is a nice big-name film for Biel, who was also in the remake of “Total Recall.”
- As I already wrote, Golden Globe winner Buscemi crafts a wonderfully pedantic and squirrelly character with “Clint Fitzer.” Buscemi cranks out these kind of characters with aplomb and does exceptional work in drama such as “Reservoir Dogs,” “Desperado” and “The Big Lebowski.” The film would have been just a little less watchable without the “Fitzer” character as done by Buscemi.
- Oscar-nominee Dan Aykroyd (it was for “Driving Miss Daisy”) as “Capt. Phineas J. Tucker” is the guys’ supervisor and creates their downfall and helps save them all at the same time at the end. It’s a good, solid role for Aykroyd, who doesn’t always do well in small roles. He’s best remembered not only for TV’s “Saturday Night Live,” but also for the spectacular work he did in “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy (click here for my review).
- Ving Rhames plays firefighter “Fred G. Duncan” and at first appears to be ready to explode in violence. However, he’s ready to come out of the closet and does so to Sandler. Rhames does good work here, especially with the contrast of violence just under the surface and a conflicted man who is somewhat unsure of himself. Rhames is best remembered for his role as the crime boss in “Pulp Fiction.” He also did good work in the remake of “Dawn of the Dead.”
- Nick Swardson, who plays Biel’s gay brother “Kevin McDonough” and ultimately marries Rhames (oops! Spoiler alert too late!), is funny in this one but doesn’t manage to do the job he did in “Just Go With It” with Sandler. He’s over-the-top here and handles it well. Swardson has been in films such as the stoner cult classic “Grandma’s Boy” – click here for my review) and “The Benchwarmers.”
Finally, the neatest supporting role is by Richard Chamberlain, who plays “Councilman Banks” on the board that is investigating Sandler and James. Being gay and having been “outed” by a magazine in the 1980s, Chamberlain was an inspired casting choice and he does a really neat job. He is probably best remembered for a couple of TV mini-series: “Shogun” and “The Thorn Birds.”
Just as Sandler’s films usually garner negative reviews, so did “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” It was vilified by the mainstream press critics, but there was one that is more in line with what I see in the film. Here’s an except from Wiki’s entry: “Nathan Lee from the Village Voice wrote a positive review, praising the film for being ‘tremendously savvy in its stupid way’ …” Again, I believe the subject matter obscured (for both sides) the very solid portions of the film.
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” was the 23rd ranked film at the U.S. box office in 2007 with $120 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” made $186 million on a budget of $85 million, according to Wiki. The No. 1 film of the year was “Spider-Man 3” with $336.5 million. It was a neat year for films and a few that I’ve reviewed are “Charlie Wilson’s War” (40th with $66.6 million – click here for my review); “You Kill Me” (209th with $2.4 million – click here for my review); “Mr. Woodcock” (92nd with $25.7 million – click here for my review); and “Ocean’s Thirteen” (26th with $117.1 million – click here for my review).
Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):
- Buscemi was a firefighter before he became an actor.
- Director Dennis Dugan has brief screen time as a Niagara Falls cab driver who gets snarky with the guys.
- Allen Covert, who is another actor/writer who works frequently with Sandler, has a small part as a homophobic parent. He was much better as the headliner in “Grandma’s Boy” with Swardson as his sidekick.
- James’ real name is Kevin George Knipfing.
- Music superstar Dave Matthews has another Sandler credit here, but it’s a much smaller role than the one he played in “Just Go With It” (he picks up a coconut with his buttocks in that film). Even in just a few seconds on screen, Matthews does a good job. He has also done TV work such as an episode of “House, M.D.” and is a very underrated actor.
- Directly from IMDb.com: “Larry’s home address that Chuck tells to Duncan was Adam Sandler‘s actual childhood address growing up.”
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