Anyone expecting to get righteously indignant over the portrayal of homosexuals in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is probably going to be disappointed. Not because the movie depicts gay people in anything approaching a nuanced or even-handed way, but because it’s so snivellingly apologetic, matching every homophobic joke with an equally tiresome speech on how gay people should be treated fairly and accepted for who they are. Equivocating at every turn, the movie doesn’t even have the courage of its crassness.
It’s also hard to get worked up about a movie with such quaint, outdated ideas of homosexuality, all show tunes and flamboyant outfits. Never is the possibility addressed that straight firefighters Chuck (Sandler) and Larry (James) could convince the world of the veracity of their sham domestic partnership by doing anything other than embodying loud gay stereotypes. The pair enter into the deception thanks to a plot contrivance that prevents widower Larry from assigning his insurance benefits to his two children. Told the only way around this problem is to get married, Larry enlists best bud Chuck to join him in a partnership that’s meant to exist only on paper.
Of course, that plan doesn’t work, and soon the duo are trying to fool a nosy fraud inspector (Steve Buscemi) and enlisting the help of an improbably hot lawyer (Biel) fond of form-fitting outfits and inappropriate socializing with her clients. Chuck falls hard for lawyer Alex, but has to keep up the gay charade while learning just what it’s like to be subjected to homophobia and ostracism.
It’s a safe, sanitized version of bigotry, though, one that’s easy to refute with a heartfelt monologue a few minutes before the credits roll. Chuck & Larry ends up patronizing both the frat-boy Sandler audience—presuming they need lectures on tolerance—and the potential gay audience, excusing stereotypes by asserting that the characters have learned it’s wrong to use the word “faggot.”
Sandler and James are clearly well-meaning, and their characters are generally likeable, but the strained, obvious humor and equal-opportunity pandering don’t ultimately serve any purpose other than to make everyone involved feel better about themselves.