HD DVD Title: I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry (Combo Format)
Screen format: 1080P,1.85:1 High Definition, VC-1 Encoded
First theatrical release: July 20, 2007
Previous/other releases: Day and Date with Widescreen and Fullscreen DVD versions
Director: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd
Sound Formats: English Dolby Digital True HD 5.1, English & French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Length: 1 Hour, 56 Minutes
Subtitles: English and French
When widower and NYC Firefighter Larry Valentine (James) discovers that his children are in jeopardy of losing out on his benefits should anything happen to him, he turns to his long time friend and fellow fireman Chuck Levine (Sandler) to cook up a plan to make sure the kids are taken care of. Ladykiller Chuck agrees to become Larry’s domestic partner without realizing just how big a commitment he is making. When overenthusiastic case worker Clinton Fitzer targets the “couple” to expose them and make an example out of them, they turn to hotshot lawyer Alex McDonough (Biel) for help. Chuck and Larry learn that it’s not just the court they will have to convince that they are for real, they will have to confront the same issues real gay couples do, including coworkers, their boss Captain Tucker (Aykroyd), their parents and Chucks’s kids as well, not to mention their own goals and lifestyles.
The basic premise of Chuck and Larry essentially boils down to The Bird Cage in reverse, instead of trying to prevent people from finding out that someone is gay, they want the whole world to know, and believe them. As such, the comedic elements all touch at least tangentially on this angle, are heavily stereotype driven, and don’t necessarily really fly. On one hand, the ensemble cast of bit players and sides-stories have the most laughs. Closeted fireman Duncan’s (Rhames) decision to come out based on Chuck and Larry’s inspirational story has more heart than the main plot. Rob Scheider as the uncredited asian minister is nearly unrecognizable, but is hysterical, at least for the first few minutes. Richard Chamberlain somehow manages to add a minor air of credibility to the rest of the mix, and Aykroyd’s Tucker just looks like he’s ready for a bottle of Maalox and then retirement. Dave Matthews is also a hit as an effeminate salesman. Also a high point is Biel, adding strong tension for Chuck and stretching the boundaries of PG-13, in a good way.
On the downside the singular focus on stereotypes has its nadir in the character of Larry’s son, Eric (Cole Morgan). While Eric’s dancing and prancing has its comedic results, the effects just seem mean-spirited, and bound to promote the continuation of these stereotypes, especially against kids who happen to show interest in theater, dance and song. James is fine as Larry, and takes the heat of most of the situations as ‘the fat guy’, but Sandler’s Chuck was heavily toned down, far from his normal over the top characters. Overall there just weren’t as many laughs as I was expecting from these two comedic heavy-weights, and what was there really only hit on making fun of gays or fat people, and both have been done a million times before, with more class, and for bigger laughs.
Sound Quality: 3.5/5
Soundwise C&L was above average for a situational comedy, with a decent surround mix that has its high points in the multiple fire scenes and in a dance club. In those instances sounds radiate well from all corners and there are minor uses of surround effects and some decent bass content. Outside of those scenes, the focus returns to the front sound stage, and it is suitably well centered, clean and clear. The score is credited to Rupert Gregson-Williams but I have to note that I barely noted original music but Music Supervisors Michael Dilbeck and Brooks Arthur’s choices of popular music did strike a chord, no pun intended. Like the movie itself, these songs tend to be a bit “foofy”, again echoing stereotypes. Examples include Abba’s “Dancing Queen”, James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”, and Journey’s “Open Arms”. Solid music all around, but the way it is used punctuates the movie’s themes and reinforces the stereotypes.
Visual Quality: 4/5
Like the audio side of things, for a situation comedy C&L is well ahead of the pack but never quite reaching what would be deemed excellence. It’s a moderately sharp film, even faces are well defined and free of over-softening, and colors are solid but unremarkable. There weren’t any instances of pops or scratches, and while noise was mostly well controlled, there were a few nighttime scenes where it did creep in a bit. Likewise it was free of any kind of digital artifacts and I never noted any ringing or artificial sharpening. Overall it looked fine but I simply can’t point to any particular scenes that popped up as truly memorable quality wise.
Extra Features: 3/5
C&L's box promotes several on-line, web enabled features which I didn’t experience yet, tho I understand there is still nothing specifically related to this particular film on-line at this time, it’s mostly pointers to content from other Universal Films. The sole U-Control feature is a pop-up ‘Friendship Test’ which seemed vapid enough that I could safely skip that as well. The meat of the Extras however are a lot more palatable. Highlights include a dialogue between Sandler and James in a movie theater describing all of the cameos and bit players, a featurette that shows them doing their own stunts, and a series of outtakes and extended look behind several key scenes. There is a lengthy ‘making of’ featurette titled “I now pronounce you husband and husband” with the typical interviews and behind the scenes look with all of the key players. Not enough to be considered a Special Edition by any means, but enough for an initial release for sure.
Overall: 3/5 (not an average)
Obviously Chuck and Larry isn’t going on my top ten list this year, but it does have some redeeming qualities. James shows he can even upstage a start as big as Sandler when the two are paired together, and even more interesting is that the bit players get the bulk of the laughs here. While there is no doubting Biel’s beauty, it’s arguable how much she brings to the film other than that, as the friendship and chemistry between her character and Sandler’s was funny but based on lies, putting its ultimate believability into outer orbit. The sound and video quality both are solid if not extraordinary and there’s a nice little batch of extras as well, so there isn't much to complain about there. Overall the package is good but not great. I suspect that if you are able to give in to the premise and excuse the stereotypes you are liable to find a lot more to like here than I was able to.