The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Well, there it is. I actually took a break in the middle of the day, and went to see an Adam Sandler comedy with my wife. Lord God, forgive me.
Well, you know the premise: a widowed fireman (Kevin James) is afraid that if he dies, his kids won’t get the benefits. He has the bright idea of having his best friend (Adam Sandler) pretend to be his Domestic Partner, to get around the rules. Low-Jinx and much socially responsible soul-searching follows.

The first 2/3 of this movie was pretty hysterical. Sandler’s arc as he reacts to someone calling him “faggot”—a word he himself had used not twenty minutes earlier—is actually a terrific scene, in a lowbrow comedy kinda way. And overall, the movie has its heart in the right place. As one character puts it: “In America, we have the right to put anything up our ass we want.” Trust me, this one is still for the frat boys—it isn’t exactly Brokeback Mountain. But there is a touch of something more there. Straight reviewers have been harsher than the one openly gay critic I read, who thought it was a hoot. It’s been interesting to watch straights get all offended for their poor gay brethren. I’ll give it a “B” for Adam Sandler fans, a “C+” if you’re not, and, unfortunately a great big…


You know? I sometimes think that tolerance, or non-prejudicial attitudes seem to be a zero-sum game. In other words, when Sandler (and his producers) stretched themselves to be kind to gays, they let some of their other attitudes show. Rob Schneider shows up as a Chinese minister, and it’s pretty much worse than Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.” Sorry, but considering how few Asian actors get cast anywhere, if you were going to have a stereotype, at least cast a real Asian—an actor could send his daughter to Yale for what Schneider earned here. If you’re gonna be humiliated, at least get something for the pain.

On another note of grim inevitability, when Ving Rhames shows up as a beefy, threatening, uber-tough Fireman…and the only black fireman…why was it so #$%@@ predictable that he would be gay? And wiggle his ass naked in the shower? And get the only screen kiss I can remember this ultra-masculine actor ever getting…with another man.

Please remember this in the context of white audiences still apparently unwilling to accept the onscreen hetersexual coupling of Black or Asian men. IT'S NOT HOLLYWOOD--don't think you can pigeon-hole it, lay this problem off on a few executives. Hollywood just tallies the box office, boys and girls. They have no agenda higher than making their Hummer payments. This is America.

It is so terribly predictable, and the rough genetic equivalent to having the only black male character in an action/horror movie die. Sorry, but I can’t help but believe that this wasn’t some statistical fluke, it is deliberate (or subconsciously “loaded”) to create an effeminate, non-threatening clown out of this impressive man. Can any of you think of a single movie…I mean one single film where there was only a single white male, who was gay, in a film filled otherwise with heterosexuals? I have to think that this kind of stuff—a howl to the typical white fratboy Adam Sandler audience—is a universal human tendency. Because if I took it personally…I probably would have climbed up on a building with a rifle by now.

Oh, and that predictability factor…just watched “The Peaceful Warrior.” Very nice adaptation of Dan Millman’s book about the spiritual awakening of a college gymnast. There is only one black gymnast on the team. Guess who gets badly injured, so that the white guys can feel all bad, and then compete for his position.

People, when you see me reluctant to tar an entire group of people without absolute certainty (our recent discussions) it is because I hold with a death-grip to the idea that people are just people, that the negative tendencies I see are a part of our nature that becomes more severe under pressure…and that “there but for the grace of God go I.” The instant I start attributing differential basic value and morality to groups based on religion, nationality or ethnicity…

Well, it isn’t pretty.

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