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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (HD DVD) (HD DVD)
Universal // PG-13 // November 6, 2007 // Region 0
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted December 2, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Background: One of the most common types of feel good comedy is the kind that tackles the outsider thrust by circumstances into a world they held in contempt. The dynamic of such flicks is that both sides of the issue at hand get to see the point of view of the other and the movie ends with a message of tolerance towards members from the other group. When handled properly with good actors, a solid script, and decent direction, the results are often pretty pleasing but when one or more aspects of the generic formula are compromised, forget about it. Such was the case with the recently released I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry HD DVD; the latest effort from superstar comedian Adam Sandler.

Movie: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry HD DVD is a slight story about a couple of guys forced to act as though they are a gay couple in order to protect some pension benefits designed by a monolithic city policy to prevent fraud, with the usual results of impacting a decent guy. Kevin James plays Larry Valentine, a noble but goofy fireman who was widowed a few years back when the love of his life dies far too early. Leaving him in charge of raising the kids, the situation has still left him grief struck but as a series of increasingly dangerous work assignments places him in great physical danger, he decides to switch his beneficiary from his now dead wife to his kids. The problem comes in when he is told that he cannot transfer these benefits as it has been over a year since the death of his mate; a bureaucratic rule requiring action be taken long passed. Rather than go to his union attorneys or seek professional guidance to figure out how to fix the matter, he latches onto the idea of a loophole in the rules; if he gets married, he can change the pension over. I know, groundbreaking idea for a comedy, huh?

Well, this leads him to ask his best friend in the world, Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler), to fulfill the role as domestic partner, thinking the growing attention towards gay rights will make it an easy way to fulfill his need with only the smallest of white lies needed to protect the kids he loves so much. The big doofus convinces Chuck that it will only be for a short time, and as they've saved each other's lives from real dilemmas, it shouldn't be a problem. That Chuck is the biggest skirt chaser in the universe puts a few kinks in the plan though, as does the inevitable investigation once the plan is announced. See, the people charged with protecting the solvency of the plan have a tendency to investigate sham marriages and prosecute those involved for the felony of lying on official documents. As with all such comedies, this means that rather than recant and face the consequences, they dig themselves in deeper and deeper, failing to realize that every little misstep they make tweaks the interest of an overzealous investigator assigned to the case (in this case, it is the deadpan Steve Buscemi as Clinton Fitzer; a "take no prisoners" bureaucrat that automatically thinks they are scamming the system).

From this premise, one that would have easily fit inside of a half hour television shows time constraints, the characters are made to go through the paces in a heavily padded fashion, using all sorts of gay stereotypes as the basis for most of the laughs. Unfortunately, the laughs are in short supply thanks to Sandler's character possessing all the charisma of a slug (his prickish, know it all characters of the past aside, he seems ill at ease here) and James not moving past his oafish roots in television; even his well meaning motivations seeming to play to the LCD types all too often. The resulting domestic situation is poorly portrayed and the workplace prejudice is so by the numbers that if you haven't seen it done in the past, and done far more interestingly, you haven't been watching movies or television in decades. In essence, you could change the theme from gay to black to differing religions to any assorted generic difference and the formula would be intact but for a few situation specific jokes. That I really like both leads in so many of their past projects only made it worse and I'm not exactly the champion of gay rights when it comes to being offended at the humor.

There were some highlights in the movie though, enough by the cameo appearances that I alternated between wincing and applauding that someone thought to add a spark or two of appeal at rare intervals. Jessica Biel as the union attorney was breathtakingly hot and her attempts to rely on Chuck's "safe" sexual nature were crude by fun. Having him feel her up to prove her breasts were real, the snuggling up and shopping day stuff that he wouldn't have done for any of his flings were actually pretty good compared to the interactions between he and Larry (setting the bar mighty low as a result I know but she was that hot). This opened up another clich├ęd problem that didn't work but I suspect the story was written on the back of a napkin and fleshed out by committee so you really can't fuss too loudly at Sandler taking advantage of the moment. Davis Spade's flamer, the flirting mailman, and even Dan Aykroyd as the no nonsense fire captain were all pohone in roles that came off as improvised and lame, even the straight laced characters set up by Richard Chamberlain were given nothing substantial to work with. In all, the unbalanced nature of the script having no where to really go required too many of those "Hallmark" moments with the kids that also seemed forced, making this a mess of a movie for the beer chugging homophobes that will likely use their one time viewing as a means to tell the world how little that hate "queers" so fan of the cast or not, I had to rate this one a Skip It.

For those curious as to the box cover spiel, here's what it said: "Adam Sandler and Kevin James star as best friends and fellow firefighters Chuck and Larry, the pride of their Brooklyn fire station. Chuck owes Larry for saving his life. Larry called in the favor big-time by asking Chuck to pose as his "domestic partner" so his kids will get his pension. But when a fact-checking bureaucrat becomes suspicious, the two straight buys are forced to improvise as love-struck newlyweds. Jessica Biel, Ving Rhames and Dan Aykroyd co-star in this hilarious comedy."

Picture: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry HD DVD was presented in the usual 1.85:1 ratio widescreen color it was shot in by director Denis Dugan on video rather than film. After initially encountering some issues with the infamous Combo-Disc (they have more troubles than anything else in the HD world from my experience), I got it to work and the resulting picture was decent, if unexciting. There was aliasing at times and the tint of certain scenes appeared to be off with the black portions of the picture showing some issues on occasion too. It appeared that Dugan was trying to make it look like a film instead of a video offering, the resulting soft spots not really harming the physical appearance much but definitely attempting to keep it from looking like it was shot for TV as so many similar shows have been over the years. The HD DVD version was encoded in the VC-1 codec using the ever popular 1080p resolution, on an HD-30 disc for those wanting the skinny about the technical side. The bitrate was in the middle of the road most of the time most of the time and while it was far from a disc to showcase your home theaters on, it was a step up from the anamorphically enhanced SD version on the second side (I admittedly only spot checked it on scenes that didn't look their best on the HD side to see how it fared; again, middle of the road).

Sound: The primary audio track was the Dolby True HD in 5.1 with the 5.1 Dolby Digital+ tracks in English and French sounding similar in terms of quality. Most of the movie is a talking heads type of affair, the dialogue rich portions sounding as good as most recent television shows (reasonable to expect given the director's long history of working in the medium as a hired gun for TV shows) but no better. The action sequences involving fires, the Halloween party, and the shopping spree actually showed some decent surround effects in striking contrast to the majority of the movie; the soundtrack also enhanced by the improved formats but only a little. The surround effects and separation were otherwise boilerplate good; not enough to stand out from the crowd but nicely handled for a new flick that came out this year. The subtitles appeared to be dub-titles without the loose translation found in smaller projects (at least the English SDH version; my French is limited to a few key phrases) so that wasn't a problem either. The SD version included a Spanish track too but neither of the foreign language tracks really shined by comparison (this is a standard occurrence too from what I've listened to over the years).

Extras: The first extra you should be aware of is the standard definition copy of the movie on the second side of the disc. In the unlikely near future end of the format wars, should the other format win, this might be the only version you can see on the disc so consider it a backup plan or the version you can bring to friend's houses that haven't jumped onto the HD DVD format. Exclusive extras to the HD DVD version of the movie included the Friendship Test where a series of lame questions would appear on your television screen if enabled; no pay off given for trying to achieve a high "score"; and the usual weblinks where you could download material off the internet. I think I actually liked the two commentaries the most, spot checking the director commentary (Dugan was alone so it was relatively dry and largely based on technical matters) but listening to the actor commentary where Sandler, James, and Dugan all trying to portray the alpha male of the project was looser and contained more off the cuff silliness to appreciate. The rest of the extras appeared to be straight from the SD version with an outtakes selection (Laughing Is Contagious) lasting about six and a half minutes, a slightly shorter bit on Sandler, James and the other leads in I Now Pronounce You Husband and Husband as they talked about their favorite parts in the movie, a cute bit on the multitude of cameo roles in the movie (I admit that I had missed a few of them when watching the movie) where some of them were shown beyond the tragedy of now working tiny bits tossed to them by friends, and a short feature on the stunts of the movie called Stop, Drop and Roll. There was a section on the director explaining some stuff about his role in making the movie but I didn't think he made a very good case for his continued employment by Sandler too.

Final Thoughts: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry HD DVD really wasn't a bad movie in the sense that it simply copied a generic formula and added in some lightweight jokes to try and make it more unique but ultimately the low end potty humor jokes were geared to that mythical mindset that Sandler should have outgrown years ago and it was too long by half as the material was stretched far beyond what could have worked given the intentions stated on the commentary tracks and in the extras. If you want to put your brain on autopilot and chug down a six pack to a generic comedy, you could probably do worse than I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry HD DVD but even then you'd be setting a mighty low standard. Perhaps if you're gay you might get some laughs out of the stereotypes tossed at the viewer like dud hand grenades so frequently or if you're truly a homophobe you might be able to point at those bad old gays but given the amount of quality talent that went into the movie, this result was completely unexpected; proving that too many cooks can spoil the broth.

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