Review: Jokes thin, tired and ugly in 'Pronounce'

If comedic themes were dogs, Adam Sandler would be prosecuted for cruelty to animals. He gets a gag, beats it to within an inch of its life, underpinning this barroom brainstorm with raw sexist humor and the exploitation of stereotypes. At the end of the film, the Neanderthal males in the cast evolve at speeds never imagined by Darwin, laughing with those they have belittled and suggesting all the sub-locker-room humor is in the spirit of good fun.

Sorry Adam, you can’t have it both ways.

In “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” the one joke eclipses the story. Moronically submissive women, a parade of T-and-A, caricatures of African Americans, Asians, gays, the morbidly obese, the homeless, and hygienically-challenged Russian women fill out the circus.

Chuck Ford (Adam Sandler) and Larry Allensworth (Kevin James), fire fighters, men among men and best of friends, risk their lives for the citizens of Philadelphia. Chuck, admired and envied by his peers, sets the paradigm: On 24-hour alert, he’s ready to whip out whichever hose the situation demands. Toremain in shape, he selflessly devotes his downtime to porn magazines and other implements of mental and physical conditioning.

Larry, still mourning the lost of his wife a year prior, is indifferent, but not oblivious to his friend’s hobbies and obsessions.

Sharing a dangerous occupation, they are loyal to the end, which almost comes for Chuck, if not for a heroic rescue effort by his comrade. In gratitude, Chuck writes Larry a blank check, for any favor he should ever need, “Any place, any time.”

That time and place arrives sooner than either anticipated when widower Chuck discovers his death benefits may not pass to his children. The only solution is for the two buddies to register with the city as a domestic union, thereby assuring the insurance money would go to Larry, who could be trusted to pass it on. They findout, though, that this fraudulent partnership is a felony.

Fearing discovery, they pose as a homosexual couple and consult attorney Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel). Based on her advice, they travel to Canada and get married, making it official. But this does not deter intrepid city inspector Clinton Fitzer (Steve Buscemi), who detects something amiss. Attempting to become more convincing the grooms come out of the closet.

Their fellow firefighters ostracize the newlyweds. But Chuck experiences an upside. Regarded as the feminine half of the relationship by Alex, he is taken on as a friend, like one of the girls, with whom to go shopping, and share girl-type secrets, allowing the oversexed firefighter intimacies he could only dream of.

With the laughs thoroughly wrung out, the gay jokes exhausted, and the “bimbo” bits allowed to run their course, there's an awakening.

Chuck and Larry experience the prejudice gays suffer from daily, converting not only them, but the whole firehouse into reformed bigots. Heaven forbid redemption should arrive before the fun is over.

“I Now Pronouce You Chuck and Larry” is a well-made movie, but an indecent one. That's not a prudish evaluation. Sexual jokes are a matter of taste. Demeaning jokes are a matter of no taste.

There’s plenty of strong, edgy material available for an actor with the talents of Sandler. The mystery is why he’s not using it.

Grade: C-

Lester Gray reviews movies for Examiner.com. Read reviews by all Examiner film critics.

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