Making the Grades
Meet Larry Valentine (Kevin James), a New York City firefighter who is in the depths of despair mourning the death of his wife. He has two little kids, and has hired an incompetent maid (I assume she's all that was available) to help with the housework and childcare. Things only get more difficult when he discovers he hasn't changed the beneficiary on his life insurance, and (in what is possibly the most improbable movie set-up this year) is told he has missed the deadline to complete the paperwork.
Meet Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler, whose company made this movie). He also fights fires, and in his off time feeds a sexual addiction with pornographic magazines, caseloads of adult videos and a bevy of bikini-clad women. (We can only presume Sandler wanted us to know, beyond any doubt, that his character Chuck likes women. I get it.)
After Larry saves Chuck's life, the kindhearted guy says he will do anything for his best friend. Suddenly Larry has found the answer to his problem: Make Chuck his domestic partner and he can become the beneficiary of Larry's life insurance plan and guardian of his family. It should work, except insurance companies are always on the lookout for scammers. Suspicious, they send in Mr. Fitzer (Steve Buscemi), a devious little investigator who combs through their trash. When told their garbage isn't gay enough, the pair know it's time to up the ante.
A quick trip to Canada to get married and the legal council of Alex (Jessica Biel), a lawyer specializing in gay rights, ought to convince everyone this is the real deal. It's just unfortunate that Chuck really likes women, and women really like him, too. His rude, crass, and perverted personality seems to make him irresistible to beautiful females who range from bimbos to doctors and... even lawyers.
When Chuck begins fondling Alex's breasts, we know this gig isn't going to last much longer... or at least we hope so. But, like every other movie Sandler has made, there has to be a moralistic, schmaltzy ending, and this one delivers with a courtroom finale so ridiculously sweet, you wonder why this wasn't a musical.
Sandler's heart may have been in the right place when he set out to make a movie that promotes tolerance toward gay people (with a little "fat people are nice, too" on the side), and includes lines like, "Gays and lesbians have not been fighting for these rights for forty years to be made a mockery of!" Yet that's exactly what this movie does with its dozens of offensive gay stereotypes and homophobic characters, which we are expected to forgive in the film's closing minutes. It also paints obese people as being flatulent fools, Christians as intolerant bigots, and drunken homeless people as amusing jesters. As well, the use of women as disposable sexual objects is highly demeaning and offensive.
All of our content categories are brimming with reasons why you shouldn't bring the kids to this film. Sexual innuendo is non-stop, a shower room scene features male nudity and another extended scene shows women wearing very brief underwear. Mild and moderate profanities pepper the script, while characters dish out punches and body tackles to anyone who disagrees with their point of view.
Like many previous movies from Sandler's Happy Madison Productions, this one was rated R in the US, and then won a PG-13 after an appeal with no edits to the film. Considering the nudity, sexual content, fraudulent activity and scenes of NYC firefighters smoking (something the MPAA ratings administration recently said would play a role in determining a film's rating), it appears the insurance company isn't the only organization Chuck and Larry are trying to swindle.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Is comedy always an appropriate way to deal with sensitive themes? Do you think the stereotyped portrayals of gay people interfere with the messages promoting tolerance?
Some of the characters resort to punching and tackling when someone says something they disagree with. How is this violence used as a comedic tool? What does this method of resolving conflict teach about tolerance?
Safety note: A fireman sprays a Carbon Dioxide fire extinguisher in a man’s face for comedic purposes. It is very dangerous to shoot any compressed gas at another person—especially their face. Also, the gas in these extinguishers is extremely cold and can cause frostbite.