Note: I left this one stewing for too long, and some answers are provided at the end. But hey, it’s all a little different to me now considering I came out last weekend. Still, I’m now leaning more towards my “bankrupt” rather than plain “ambiguous” conclusion.
The moment that the trailer for I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry came on before I saw Knocked Up, I swore under my breath. Having seen the trailer at Ocean’s Thirteen, I was prepared again for the worst. I was struck by a different trailer, this time, one that didn’t make it seem as if it was the end of days. It’s amazing how the way something is cut can change a tone from exploitative to something semi-emotional.
Of course, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is not without its exploitation. It has to be. If you’re going to make a movie about people pretending to be gay, then you’re going to have to put in a lot of T&A to make the target audience of straight males feel secure about themselves. To this end, we have a parade of women in very little, and a lot of Jessica Biel.
Now, Jessica Biel is the foil that stands between Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and exploiting a legal loophole that works in the favour of homosexual couples (whoa, gay rights? Slow down there, movie town). The problem is that Adam Sandler sucks at faking gay. My least favourite part of the first trailer I saw was the instance of Adam Sandler touching Jessica Biel’s boobs, and then saying in a childish voice that they are “yucky”.
These are lies, Adam Sandler! Gay men love boobs! Unless they are unfortunate enough to be saddled with one of those misogynistic gay men, a woman is unlikely to have one so childishly denounce her body.
The second trailer makes it clear that Kevin James isn’t money-grubbing, and that Adam Sandler appears to be doing this for his friend. Hell, we even get to see Kevin James getting along with his children from his presumably widowed marriage (which will be interesting, considering that the traditional stance is “He can’t be gay – he has children!”. It worked for Oscar Wilde!)
These trailers don’t indicate if Sandler and James exist in a continuum that includes actual gay people. This is probably not the case, because then they would understand that they don’t have to readjust their personalities in order to pass as gay. But then, if these were just two guys who fake their gay to the top through pretending to be in a relationship, then there wouldn’t be any funny “fish out of water” comedy to be had. I’ll admit that I really wanted to think of a terrible gay/straight equivalent of “fish out of water” for that sentence, but didn’t have the fortitude to try.
The gay part that rang true to me was when our two intrepid heroes are seen participating in a pride parade, dressed as themselves (albeit wearing “Mrs. Pitt” and “Mrs. Timberlake” shirts) and waving. This, while not hilarity personified like, say, the two men going shirtless, wearing balloons and leather, whipping Peter LaBarbera, all while looking terribly meek, is what the movie would be in some sort of ideal world. Perhaps this scene indicates that the movie will inform Sandler, James, and the impressionable young audience that saw guys kissing in Big Daddy (yes, it also had Jon Stewart in it, but these facts do not make it a good movie) that gay people are, at heart, people, with human emotions.
Even if it does, and even if there are vital lessons to be learned about equality and maybe even that love, there is an inevitable foul taste generated by the early days of homophobia.
So with the distance of a week, and the news that GLAAD seems to be okay with the movie (and Dan Akroyd defended it with faint praise, which seems weird considering that he was in it), I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is not quite the infuriating trainwreck that it had existed as in my mind. I don’t want to give it my money, and I don’t think that the majority of people who go to see it will learn anything from it, but at least Adam Sandler can atone for saying “faggot” on screen.
Post-Script: Turns out it’s not very good, even with the inexplicable script work of Alexander Payne (you wrote Sideways and About Schmidt! You are above this!)
Steve Buscemi weighs in, along with links to reviews from The Advocate and Reuters. Also hitting in is AfterElton, which makes the important note that it simply isn’t very funny, and separately suggests that it could have been a gay Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. GLAAD approved, but is it wrong that I don’t care much for them?
Yep, this is a movie which not only features a tough guy who loses all of his masculinity upon coming out, but also yellow face the likes of which has not been seen since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You’re onto a winner here, Hollywood.