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We now pronounce
you—a big yawn

We now pronounce
you—a big yawn


It's not all homophobic jokes in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. It's just not funny.

When the film Wild Hogs came out earlier this year, much was made of its thudding, relentless homophobia. Nearly every joke in the movie made gays the target, whether it was in the form of sneered-at flamers or in the heroes' fear that they themselves could be mistaken as queer. It's no wonder that gay and lesbian audiences protested this sort of humor, but would they still have cried out if the film had squeezed a "homophobia is wrong" lesson into the final act? Could a potential epiphany have made up for the easy gay jokes that composed the bulk of the film's running time?

That's the question many will ask when Universal releases I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry on July 20. The film, directed by Big Daddy helmer Dennis Dugan, stars Adam Sandler and Kevin James as the titular firemen who pose as gay to reap the financial benefits of a civil union. Soon enough, the city starts digging into their ruse (in some cases quite literally, as a city inspector played by Steve Buscemi inspects Larry's trash cans in an effort to find "homosexual garbage"), and the men are forced to hire an attorney-- albeit a sexy one who dresses like the librarian from a Van Halen video. She's played by Jessica Biel as perhaps the first lawyer in movies to be introduced in a leering slow-motion pan up her body, and Chuck's crush on her threatens his sham marriage in more ways than one.

Though Chuck and Larry begin the film as mildly homophobic, their time posing as queer is supposed to open their eyes to gay acceptance. Really, though, it's just an excuse for the film to throw lecherous gay guys at them. While fending off one man's advances, Larry protests that "just 'cause you're gay doesn't mean you're horny for every guy you meet," but in this film, it kind of does. Virtually without exception, the gays here are presented as sex-obsessed or as men who really want to be women. Biel's oblivious attorney enjoys spending time with Chuck because "girls rule," and even when another firefighter comes out for real, he's immediately drained of all masculinity and starts to sing "I'm Every Woman" in the group shower.

Perhaps more troubling is the uncorrected assertion--put forth even by a pension investigator and the sympathetic attorney--that one can "become" gay. Much is made of "gay lifestyles" and the fact that the city accepts Larry's previous marriage with a blithe "So you haven't always been gay." The only expression of gay sexuality venerated here is in the opening scene, where Chuck tricks two straight female twins into kissing each other in front of his coworkers. In fact, if there's anyone in the film who gets more short shrift than the gay characters, it's the women. Biel has sounded off in the press lately about how much she'd like to be perceived as a serious actress, but this is easily her most vapid role to date in a career that includes Stealth. Fully half her dialogue is giggling, and the character is so thin (literally) that Biel is reduced to the sort of T&A spectacle normally reserved for the likes of Elisha Cuthbert.

GLAAD entertainment media director Damon Romine commented favorably on the film in the Boston Herald, arguing that this "disarming type of comedy" uses "stereotypes and slurs" to hold a mirror up, encouraging people to ask, " 'Where does this come from?' " You may wonder the same thing when you see Rob Schneider's cameo as an Asian minister with a bowl cut and an overbite (to seal the marriage ceremony, he asks both grooms to present the "lings"). Whether gay audiences at large will embrace the film remains to be seen, though the outlook is doubtful--even if they're able to look past the questionable story line, the film simply isn't that good. The only subtle joke that gays will appreciate is that husky Larry has a painting above his bed called The Bear Dance, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't meant to be noticed.

Some will say that this film wasn't intended for our audience, so we can't expect a sophisticated take on our sexuality. To those people, I'd offer up Will Ferrell's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which not only presented a matter-of-fact gay character but managed to sneak in a long, lingering kiss. Of course, Chuck & Larry has a gay smooch too. It comes at the very end of the film, and the camera can't dolly backward fast enough.

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Kyle Buchanan