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July 23, 2007

Hey Chuck and Larry: I Now Pronounce You Lame


With society making it increasingly difficult to speak or even joke in a manner that might, just might, offend somebody somewhere, I was delighted to see the previews for what seemed to be a promising movie, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” I was stunned that anyone in Hollywood would agree to participate in a movie where the two lead characters use a gay domestic partnership for worthy financial reasons. So, I went to see it. And now, I want my money back.


The concept behind the movie is itself genuinely clever, tackling an issue that anyone who has put serious thought into civil unions and gay marriage must have already wondered about. The story is about Larry (Kevin James), a recently-widowed, caring but somewhat bungling father of two young children, and Chuck (Adam Sandler), Larry’s best friend and a young Hugh Hefner-style womanizer.


Both being firemen, Larry saves Chuck’s life, and the latter promises to repay Larry in whatever way necessary. Conveniently enough, around that time Larry learns that the only way he can guarantee that his children would receive his pension funds upon his death is to enter into a domestic partnership with Chuck.


After entering into the legal partnership, city bureaucrats begin to hassle them by trying to confirm the legitimacy of the gay relationship. Soon, everyone finds out about the situation and comes to believe that the two are a homosexual couple, with only their fire-station captain understanding the real situation. Because of this, Chuck and Larry go out of their way for almost two stereotype-riddled, politically-incorrect hours trying to prove to the world that they are indeed very, very homosexual.


As someone who easily gets annoyed with those who claim to be offended by even the most minor deviations from politically correct etiquette, I would normally approve of a movie that seeks to demonstrate that “offensive” terms often should be taken as nothing more than what they are – jokes. To a certain degree, “I Now Pronounce You” achieves this goal.


There is a catch, however. In order to justify the stereotypical jabs taken at the homosexual community, the directors artificially insert mini-speeches that preach tolerance, and even go so far as to harshly attack the religious right. Several scenes in the movie show religious individuals holding up signs denouncing homosexuality, often abrasively. The directors even manage to fit in a jab at Mel Gibson.


In the worst scene, a religious figure is seen calling the homosexuals “flamers,” and then proceeds to repetitively label them “faggots” through a loudspeaker. Chuck then punches him to the ground, and to Hollywood’s content. Is that, however, a fair reflection of the Christian right? Do pastors wait outside gay parties to yell out “faggots” and call gay firefighters “flamers?” The movie leaves no room for interpretation. Christians who disapprove of homosexual behavior are hateful, almost subhuman beings. And that is all.


The movie, however, strikes of blatant hypocrisy. After making it seem that using either of these two f-words is the worst you could possibly do to the gay community, “I Now Pronounce You” does much worse. Is calling a gay person a “faggot” really worse than representing gay relationships as being built entirely on nonstop sex and almost violent sexual battery? Is labeling homosexuals “flamers” somehow more hurtful to the image of the gay community than implying that gay men party in butterfly costumes and immediately get attracted to other men for the sole reason of their shared homosexuality?


The movie uses its cheesy speeches of tolerance as a carte blanche to milk every possible stereotype about the gay community (even homophobes exploit only some of these stereotypes).


At least the movie attempts to pay reparations to the gay community.


It does not, however, do the same with the Christian right, which remains the forgotten victim of the movie. No attempt is made to appease that constituency, although, in a very anomalous plug, one of the characters praises Rudy Giuliani as the “great mayor.” Is flattering the only Republican presidential candidate who supports civil unions supposed to be the olive branch that the directors extend in exchange for the bashing of Christians? For some reason, I don’t think this will appease Christians or draw any thanks from the Giuliani campaign.


Even if you are completely disinterested in the social messages of this movie, unless you would find it entertaining to watch Adam Sandler sit in and break two children’s chairs (yes, two of them), you are better off staying at home or watching another flick. Two stars: One for the successful fat jokes, and the other for the movie’s shout out to New York’s firefighters.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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