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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (review)

Can the occasion of overgrown-fratboy goofball Adam Sandler (Reign Over Me) and resolutely vanilla sitcom dad Kevin James (Hitch) in fagface be anything other than an invitation to laugh at icky queery flamboyant homos? Of course it can! Please to laugh at icky queery flamboyant homos so this rejected episode of The Odd Couple can teach you a lesson: that it’s wrong — wrong, we tell you — to laugh at icky queery flamboyant homos. Homos are people too, even if they make you go “Ewwww!” Supermacho New York firemen Sandler — who’s also, in the film’s only stretch for hilarity, and an unintentional one at that, meant to be a hottie calendar pinup — and superdad James, a widower raising two kids on his own, are “forced” into a phony domestic partnership because of bureaucratic nonsense regarding the latter’s city pension. Jokes about gay weddings, gay sex, and male rape ensue — the gratuitous ethnic stereotyping is thrown in for free — until it’s time for The Lesson, when we get lectured by Sandler on how we shouldn’t use the word “faggot,” cuz it’s mean. I’d love to see the version of the script brilliant screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Sideways and Election) actually wrote, before it was shredded into this schizophrenic garbage.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language and drug references

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • Gerard

    Wow! I can’t believe you hated this so much and I loved it so much. It’s interesting what one finds funny another finds downight despicable. I had one heck of a time at this movie and thought it was rather excellent. One of us is crazy. Most likely me. How could you not enjoy the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Kevin James? How could you not enjoy Jessica Biel halfnaked?

    It was a little long but that’s my only complaint. Summer movie fun imho.

  • Fuggle

    Wow, I had never bothered to notice who the writers were, and now that makes it sad(der).

    Every time I see a trailer for this movie, I think, “hey, there could actually be something resembling a concept for good movie in there” – I’m kind of let down but not at all surprised to find out that both it was possible it could have been a good movie, and not at all surprised to hear it’s /not/.

    (also, out of curiosity, did you coin ‘fagface’, or where did you pick it up from?)

    – – – –

    Gerard – unless it’s something like Redford and Newman, onscreen chemistry does not a movie make; nor does a half-naked woman, Jessica Biel or not. You could, too, still enjoy both and yet not enjoy or even like the greater movie as a whole, too.

  • Ken

    Gerard: It’s interesting what one finds funny another finds downight despicable. I had one heck of a time at this movie and thought it was rather excellent. One of us is crazy immature and small-minded. Most likely me.

    Fixed that for ya.

  • MaryAnn

    Gerard wrote:

    How could you not enjoy the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Kevin James?

    Chemistry? I understand intellectually that many people seem to find Sandler appealing in some way, but I will never see it. “Simian” is the best adjective I can come up with to describe how he comes across in my eyes. And James is quite possibly the most boring human being ever to “grace” the screen.

    How could you not enjoy Jessica Biel halfnaked?

    I have as much appreciation for the female form as anyone, but I felt sorry for Biel, and for her character: they both get woefully mistreated here.

    Fuggle wrote:

    “hey, there could actually be something resembling a concept for good movie in there”

    Yeah, but it would have to be an indie or foreign film. This version here is exactly what you’d expect from Hollywood.

    (also, out of curiosity, did you coin ‘fagface’, or where did you pick it up from?)

    I did, as far as I know, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that someone else had also come up with it as well. Apparently, though, it’s “offensive” — I got an email from someone who told me I should have used “gayface” instead. But the concept is *supposed* to be offensive…

    I’ve used “fatface” in the past, too, to describe offensive usage of fat suits on skinny actors…

  • Well I think the point of the “gayface” comment is that you’re building that out on the term “blackface” not “niggerface”. “Gayface” probably would be a better analog.

    That being said, it’s a stupid thing to get offended at, when it’s clear that the intent and meaning behind it is not offensive. But there are certain people that are really good at getting offended at just about anything, so there ya go.

  • amanohyo

    THIS is the #1 movie in America?! I know I shouldn’t care, but every time this happens, I get so depressed. Will someone please explain to me why the average person would pay money to see Adam and Kevin pretending to be gay (and Rob Schneider in yellowface straight out of the 30’s apparently)?

    I don’t watch television, has this movie been advertised nonstop or something? How can this happen? When it’s going up against some of the strongest competition of the summer? I can’t put up with these people! I’m going home and I’m gonna… I’m gonna bite my pillow is what I’m gonna do.

  • Stephanie P

    Poor Adam Sandler. He tries and tries and never seems to succeed. It’s not like he’s played the same goofy slacker over and over again. He stretches himself time and time again, slipping invisibly into one character after another, taking on bigger and more socially important roles time and again, hovering inches from Oscar glory.

    Oh wait, no. I’m thinking of Don Cheadle (the other guy in that movie). Adam Sandler IS the goofy slacker that somehow keeps getting movies made.

    And it’s not surprising that this film opened at #1. It’ll probably be at #10 next week and #20 the week after. The American public may get duped into seeing trash, but they don’t usually wallow in it.

  • Miguel

    has anyone mentioned in the US that this is a rip off of a 2003 Australian movie starring Paul Hogan?

  • MaryAnn

    It’s been mentioned around the Net.

  • Josh

    The Aussie version was more likely a ripoff of Chuck and Larry since this film, the script and the concept, has been around since the late 90’s. Around 98 it was supposed to star Will Smith and Nic Cage

  • Josh

    And at one point it was supposed to be a Will Smith and James Gandolfini

  • Miguel

    just like ‘to wong foo’ and priscilla queen of the desert?

    I read that ‘8 year development’ version, but to be honest, I don’t buy it…

  • Josh

    It’s true. I am one of the ones who has followed the news on Chuck and Larry from the start. It was big movie news when Smith and Cage were attached, if not just because of the two stars but also because the subject matter was even more challenging to tackle in the 90’s. Now, I doubt that a lot what was written and created in the start is still there in an Adam Sandler film

  • amanohyo

    I have one question (it’s at the bottom). I know that Rob Schneider’s mom is from the Philippines, but I would find his minister character offensive even if it was played by an actual Chinese person (or, obviously a white person). My question is, does the fact that he is half asian somehow make his racial stereotyping not as offensive?

    The way I see it, it’s as if an actor who had an african american mom and a white dad put on blackface and portrayed a character that made fun of black stereotypes. I don’t see how this is any less offensive than a white person using blackface, but some of my friends (who are also asian-american) believe that it isn’t as bad somehow.

    On a more practical level, jobs for asian actors are pretty hard to come by in Hollywood (even dragon lady/wise master roles) so it’s a little upsetting that they went with Schneider. But the comedy is so stale, I probably would have been disappointed no matter who the actor was.

    Certainly there are times when actors successfully portray characters of other nationalities, they are actors after all, but in a cameo role like this where the character clearly is there solely to be laughed at, does the specific ethnicity and/or nationality of the actor/actress matter?

  • MaryAnn

    The Schneider Asian character only “works” as a white man in yellowface. That’s the “joke.” There would be no “joke” — and hence no point in this “character” — were he played by an actual Asian actor.

  • Josh

    Richard Roeper did point out that Schneider does have some Asian heritage in him but that the portrayal is still the most offensive since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Even if it was played by an Asian actor, it would still be very offensive, which is why I do not understand that appeal that Jackie Chan has in his own country. I think that Chan’s popularity in his country has dwindled since he sold out to American audiences and now plays off of stupid stereotypes

  • While I concede that Chan has made some stunningly bad movies over here, I would also note that much of his comedy stems from his incredible physical abilities, so that even when you’re laughing at his character, there is deep admiration for the skill on display. Contrast that with Schneider, whose joke consists of sporting an overbite and reversing his Ls and Rs.

  • Josh

    Chan also constantly speaks in a way no one can understand him. I used to think this was his regular conversation style, now I think he just does it for laughs. You gotta admit that Asian Americans cringed when Chris Tucker yells at Chan in Rush Hour 2 “Aint nobody understand the words coming out of your mouth!”

  • MaryAnn

    I was able to understand Chan just fine in those RH movies. I DID cringe at Tucker’s exclamations about not being able to understand Chan, but only because I COULD understand him and saw it only as Asian bashing.

  • Miguel

    yes, but he clearly exaggerates his accent as part of his American on screen persona.

  • MBI

    I don’t think he exaggerates it at all, he seems to talk the same in his outtakes.

  • Josh

    He clearly sounds different in some of his movies than he does in interviews. And I admit that I laughed my ass off at the racial humor in Rush Hour. I can understand how it would be incredibly offensive though. Chris Tucker does just as horrible a job playing off black stereotypes. I do remember falling on the floor laughing in the second film “I’m gonna bitch slap you back to China.” “I bitch slap you back to Africa!” I hate politically correct humor. I have a disability and devote my career to working with people with disabilities but I still find some of the jokes about disability to be funny as hell. Two good examples would be how the Farrelly Brothers and the show Seinfeld looked at disability. I really did not find that demeaning at all, but it’s how each separate individual perceives it

  • MaryAnn

    I hate politically correct humor.

    I hate stupid humor that thinks it’s radical because it isn’t “politically correct.”

  • Josh

    Agreed MaryAnn. There is a line that is not to be crossed. I just think our society has gotten too sensitive about some things and not sensitive enough about others.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not sure that we do agree, Josh. You loved the “un-PC” “humor” in *Rush Hour* — I didn’t. Not because of any PC sensitivity but because it simply didn’t amuse me. Those “jokes” about “bitch slapping” people back to wherever they supposedly “come from” don’t ring as a blow against political correctness — they strike me as resorting to ethnic stereotypes because lots of people are ignorant bigots and will laugh at it. I find nothing funny about those lines. There’s no humor in them — as far as I can see — unless you think certain people should go “back” to certain places even if they’re not from there in the first place.

    But maybe you can convince me I’m wrong. What’s funny about those lines?

  • I can only speak for myself, but I know that me and my friends will often make jokes like that with each other. We’ll mock each other’s ethnicity along with whatever else we feel like. Now, re: Rush Hour, part of it is playing on the audiences’ possible stereotypes, but I think it can be kind of funny and believable to see friends bad-mouthing each other affectionately. It’s clear that neither of the characters really hold each other in contempt because of their race; they just like to tease each other, and I can relate to that. That may not make the specific jokes funnier, but I do think it makes them less offensive.

  • MaryAnn

    I think it can be kind of funny and believable to see friends bad-mouthing each other affectionately.

    I guess I don’t get that. I don’t badmouth my friends, even “affectionately.” It seems like a kind of passive-aggressiveness, and I really, really try not to be passive-aggressive. Just plain aggressive, sure. But I don’t see the point in beating around the bush if you’re mad at someone, and I don’t see the point in being friends with someone you don’t like enough to accept as they are.

  • amanohyo

    I’ve never understood why guys are expected to insult and ridicule each other to bond. It’s probably why I’m always bored by the “See! We’re not gay!” scenes in buddy pics like Rush Hour where the two guys engage in willy waving activities (figuratively), make fun of each other, and/or objectify women together.

    As a former high school teacher, I’m pretty sure that this type of behavior develops as a result of adolescent insecurity, but for some guys it turns into a ritual that they never outgrow. I’m not sure why they hold on to the habit; I guess it’s just male culture. Sadly, a lot of guys apply the “tease people you like” strategy to girls, which as it turns out, is not that effective unless the girls are familiar with the Bizarro reasoning at work.

    Is this “good-natured” ribbing realistic? Sadly, yes. But I wish it was acceptable to be nice to another guy once in a while. On a practical level, I guess it wouldn’t be very profitable to alienate Joe Moviegoer with an emotionally honest action hero. But personally, this male-bonding realism stuff kind of gets in the way of the comedy (although I can understand how it might improve the comedy for the typical guy). I’m probably missing a crucial guy gene or something.

  • MaryAnn

    I’ve never understood why guys are expected to insult and ridicule each other to bond.

    Plenty of women do it, too, call each other “bitch” and worse. I don’t get that.

  • “I guess I don’t get that. I don’t badmouth my friends, even “affectionately.” It seems like a kind of passive-aggressiveness, and I really, really try not to be passive-aggressive. Just plain aggressive, sure. But I don’t see the point in beating around the bush if you’re mad at someone, and I don’t see the point in being friends with someone you don’t like enough to accept as they are.”

    If that’s not you, fine, but you clearly don’t know what I’m talking about. First, let me be clear that I’m not talking about movies anymore, just me and my friends. It’s not passive-aggressiveness when we tease each other. We’re not angry at each other most of the time- if we are, we’d most likely just come out and say it. We do accept each other as we are. Basically, if one of us thinks of something funny to say, we say it, and since the other knows it’s just a joke, he’s not offended. There’s no insecurity at play- in fact, we’d have to be pretty secure in order to insult each other and not be offended. We’re just mutually having fun at each other’s expense. If one of my friends insults me, and it’s funny, I laugh, because I’m secure enough to know that he’s joking. I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

  • Josh

    My dad dragged me to a matinee of this yesterday. We got up and left 30 minutes into the film. In a theater that was relatively full, only the three nimrods behind us were laughing. The film is insulting to the audiences intelligence, even more so than any Sandler film has been before. It is also sick and mean spirited. Not one funny bit in the entire film. It made me not only sad to be a film goer but also sad to be living in a country where some people find stuff like this funny.

  • amanohyo

    I wasn’t aware that women did the same thing. It definitely seemed a lot more common for for my male students, although I do recall some girls playfully calling their friends “bitch” or “whore” from time to time which surprised me.

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to be funny once in a while, and I agree that someone who was extremely insecure wouldn’t be able to handle even a playful jab without getting upset. However, after 5 years of observing adolescent behavior, I’m fairly sure that a knee-jerk insult between friends like “fag” or “bitch” is reassuring and “funny” because it addresses some underlying insecurities.

    I’ve got nothing against a genuinely funny or clever comment made at someone else’s expense as long as they know it’s not hateful. I know there are a lot of times when you are mildly annoyed by something a friend does and you want to let them know in a playful way, but I would say that 90% of the friendly guy banter I’ve observed is basically one guy telling another (paraphrased) “You just did something foolish or something that makes me upset. You are stupid and a (insert random gay slur).” And then the second guy laughs and says, “Well at least I don’t (random stupid thing that the first guy did) you (insert random slang for prostitute).” Not exactly comedy gold.

    Basically, it’s one guy (or woman apparently)claiming to be better than another person in some way (more intelligent/ attractive/ athletic/ talented/ macho) by ridiculing them. Even if it’s done in the name of comedy, a lot of comedy works because it addresses insecurities. In fact, stand up comics seem to be pretty insecure people on average. There’s nothing wrong with that up to a point, but I think eventually it would be more constructive if prople dealt with the source of those insecurities head on.

    Would it be so bad if people stopped to ask themselves once in a while, “Why do I regularly refer to my friends as bitch? Why do I pounce on them whenever they make a mistake or do something foolish? When is the last time I complimented or congratulated a friend?” I have heard theories that there is a biological basis for teasing, but I’m not sure I buy it. I’ve watched too many students who start out sweet become socialized to behave this way.

  • MaryAnn

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to be funny once in a while, and I agree that someone who was extremely insecure wouldn’t be able to handle even a playful jab without getting upset.

    It’s not about “insecurity.” It’s about…

    However, after 5 years of observing adolescent behavior,

    Bingo: adolescent behavior. Which stops being dismissable or worthy of toleration when adolescence ends.

    I’m fairly sure that a knee-jerk insult between friends like “fag” or “bitch” is reassuring and “funny” because it addresses some underlying insecurities.

    I’ve got nothing against a genuinely funny or clever comment made at someone else’s expense as long as they know it’s not hateful.

    So you’re suggesting that calling someone “fag” or “bitch” is clever?

  • amanohyo

    No, as I said above, 90% of the stuff I hear is most definitely not clever or laugh-worthy. In fact, over a third of it is of the “your mom” variety.

    I was just admitting that despite my better nature, I occasionally find some comedy roasts genuinely funny if they’re done in a clever way. I guess it does make me a bit hypocritical, but I’m trying to be as honest as possible.

    Male adolescence seems to be lasting longer and longer these days, and movies like this one certainly aren’t helping things. I’m kinda hoping this glorification of the ignorant wisecracking manchild thing is just a phase, but it seems like people just can’t get enough of it.

  • Miguel

    all this discussion proves that there is a market for this type of movie, and no matter how immature it might seem to many of us, the majority of people live their lives using this kind of ‘humour’ every day. that’s why they make hundreds of millions, they reflect the kind of relationships that most people -at least in Western countries- have with their friends.

  • Jarred

    There are ways to do politically incorrect humor and still make the jokes be hilarious. Just look at Strangers with Candy. There are a million racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes in that series (I haven’t seen the movie). But the jokes are funny because they’re about racism, homophobia, and sexism; not like in Chuck and Larry where there is no point to the jokes except to say, “Get it? They’re gay! Laugh!”

  • misterb

    Interesting point about extended adolescence:
    Many evolutionary psychologists now feel that humankind’s vastly greater intelligence than other apes is closely related to our neoteny (could be translated as “extended adolescence”) Along with even more recent studies that show that the more intelligent you are, the later you have sex, perhaps extending adolescence isn’t all a bad thing.
    To join the main thread – I haven’t seen Chuck and Larry, probably won’t – but I did think that “Happy Gilmore” was funny. Perhaps my adolescence is only extended to the 110 IQ range.

  • MaryAnn

    The extended adolescence of our neoteny refers to how we reach sexual maturity in our teens. Not that some idiots continue to act like teenagers into their 30s.

  • misterb

    MaryAnn,
    Scientifically, you’re spot on. However, in the world of sexual politics, the question is:
    When my wife says I’m still a teenager in my 50’s, is she saying that I’ve kept my mind open to new experiences or that I’m laughing at “Happy Gilmore”?

    I don’t think you have to know my wife to choose the correct alternative.

  • amanohyo

    MaryAnn is correct, I was speaking about neoteny in a social rather than a biological sense. I have heard of the theory that there is some sort of psychological neoteny brought on by the fact that in modern society, it’s necessary to constantly adapt to new situations (jobs, technology, etc.)

    In this theory, an extended adolescence allows people to learn new things more easily, but also extends the “negative” traits of adolescence like a short attention span, sensation/novelty seeking, short cycles of arbitrary fashion and a sense of cultural shallowness.

    I don’t buy it. In fact, I observe exactly the opposite. Adults who are able to succeed in modern society by adapting and learning display the characteristic traits of adolescence to a lesser degree than adults who struggle to hold down a single minimum-wage job.

    Also, I’m not sure being able to laugh at Bob Barker punching Adam Sandler repeatedly means that you are “keeping your mind open to new experiences.” I think people have been laughing at that kind of slapstick for hundreds if not thousands of years. I don’t mean to be snooty (I laughed too), but your wife is probably right.

  • amanda

    do you remember for those of you who saw it what chuck said when they had to dance at the gay club? something about bringin junior high back to their ass’s? does anyone know the exact quote?

  • The film only works because of the ridiculous and ignorant gay stereotypes that appear. The formula here is to start off with characters both crude and insensitive. Over the course of this experience, they develop a (marginally) better understanding of what gay men in our culture go through. If the characters are likeable enough, then the members of the audience who need it may also gain some of that understanding and perspective.

    Now this movie certainly isn’t a perfect work of social awareness. It isn’t really going to change the behavior of anyone who sees it. It plants the seed, though, that gay people have a lot in common with straight people. If you thought that the characters were boorish and immature at the start of the film, good! There are people seeing this movie who act exactly like that, though, and those are the people who can most benefit from seeing this movie.

    Instead of presenting a gay character in real situations, which some people are not going to be able to identify with because of various ingrained prejudices, we get Adam Sandler. No homophobe in the audience needs to worry about not letting himself identify with Adam Sandler. He’s cracking gay jokes. He’s sleeping with tons of women. He’s nice enough to feel up Jessica Biel on camera for my viewing pleasure. He’s a firefighter. The guy’s a hero. So when he stands up for his new gay friends by punching someone for using a slur, maybe that’s okay. (Overkill, perhaps, but we only have two hours to tie everything up.) When he helps his friend’s son prepare to audition for a musical, maybe that’s okay, too.

    Yes, this movie makes a lot of dumb jokes about homosexuality, but the trade off is that it presents the idea that being gay isn’t a taboo subject. You don’t have to live in fear of saying something that might be offensive to a gay person. You don’t have to avoid having gay friends because you don’t want to walk on eggshells around them. If that sounds absurd to you, then you probably have a very healthy attitude toward homosexuality. You should feel good about that because not everyone does. And this movie is not going to take someone all the way from homophobe to well-adjusted individual in one fell swoop. It’s just a bite-size piece that will bring them one step closer so subtly that they probably won’t even realize it happened.

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