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I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry

(2007) * Pg-13
115 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Dennis Dugan. Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd.

A brain-rotting live-action cartoon that's more ghastly than funny, the Adam Sandler-Kevin James buddy picture I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is casually sexist, racist, and homophobic in a way obviously intended to pander to a school-age audience of kids that don't yet know any better. Ironically, the movie is something of a Sandler apologia for past homophobic gags, with cameos by Richard Chamberlain and Lance Bass supposedly legitimizing it (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation decried the "stereotypes and anti-gay slurs" while endorsing "the overall message...of family and acceptance").

Chuck (Sandler) and Larry (James) are NYFD firefighters who pretend to be in a domestic partnership to protect widower-dad Larry's benefits. Chuck's initial reaction? "Domestic partnership. You mean like faggots?" Big laugh from the audience here, but if they choked on it later, I didn't hear it. To raise the stakes, screenwriters Barry Fanaro and Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor (yep, the Oscar-nominated team behind Sideways) give Larry a young daughter (Shelby Adamowsky) and son (Cole Morgen) to worry about (though the script daintily dances around briefing the kids about the lie). For good measure, the son is a tap-dancing lover of musical theatre: you know what that means!

In the overcompensation department, Chuck is established as a raging lothario. After insulting a female doctor with sexist come-ons, Chuck has an orgy with the suddenly bubbly blonde and five Hooters girls. Soon, when they learn the consequences if their fraud is discovered, Chuck and Larry hire an unreasonably hot lawyer (Jessica Biel). The plot turn allows for a tense romance, as gal pal and guy pal discover their feelings run deeper than wanting to shop together. Because Chuck and Larry now live a lie and experience the homophobia of gay protestors and firehouse colleagues, they learn empathy.

Because it's a Sandler movie, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is unrealistic as a matter of course (while saving a morbidly obese man from a terrifying fire, Chuck stands around wisecracking) and filled to bursting with comedic support and cameos. There's the fire chief (Dan Aykroyd); the intimidating, muscle-bound gay firefighter (Ving Rhames); the sniveling, suspicious government investigator (Steve Buscemi); the mincing clothes-store salesman (Dave Matthews); the nasty anti-gay protestor (Rob Corrdry); and the slanty-eyed, buck-toothed Asian preacher (Rob Schneider). I sure hope Sandler's next movie is about learning the pain of Asian folks...that'd be hilarious!

Though it hammers home a pro-gay, anti-homophobia message before it's through, the movie's supposed entertainment value is based entirely on Sandler's drooling over Biel's juicy behind and bazoombas, his gay panic, and a collection of swishy stereotypes. Excepting James' mannish maid, there's not a woman in the movie that isn't objectified; likewise, there's not a gay man who isn't creepy, scary, or flaming. The filmmakers wrongly figure their hypocrisy will be forgiven and forgotten by the climactic championship of gay rights, as heroically affirmed by two straight idiots.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 7/21/2009

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Universal gives I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry a beaut of an A/V treatment in its Blu-ray debut. The fresh source material is obviously spotless, and the picture quality is outstanding: color is vibrant, contrast is fine, and detail is sharp enough frequently to give the film the dimensionality found in the best Blu transfers (the only quibble: a touch of edge enhancement is evident). The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix makes ample use of surround channels for a robust aural experience that can be considered definitive for this flick.

Oddly, the Blu-ray offers considerably fewer special features than on previous DVD and HD-DVD editions. Hi-def extras include the U-Control feature Friendship Test, "a fun interactive quiz about friendship" (this comes from the HD-DVD) and the standard bookmarking feature My Scenes.

Also present are a feature commentary with director Dennis Dugan, Adam Sandler and Kevin James and a feature commentary with Dugan alone. Both are lackluster: the former is a jokey gloss on the movie, all wan banter, and the latter is a boring, surface-level discussion of locations, casting, etc. Neither track gets into the film's subject matter, perhaps in recognition that it was already being received with skepticism by the gay community.

Missing are four featurettes, a gag reel, and a selection of deleted scenes. Why these have gone AWOL is anybody's guess, but their absence makes it even harder to recommend anyone make the leap to Blu for this title.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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