Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spoiler Alert: "Chuck & Larry" and "Hairspray"

Two movies opening this week purport to be all about inclusiveness and tolerance. Both are lighthearted comic fantasies but both manage to undercut their happily ever after endings with choices that are insensitive or even bigoted.

"Hairspray" is as irresistible as its irrepressibly sunny heroine, and it deserves credit for addressing a serious issue (segregation in 1962 Baltimore). And it has some strong black characters and a sweet interracial romance. But did the great leader of the fight for integration have to be the white heroine?

More troubling is "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," with Adam Sandler and Kevin James as heterosexual fire fighters who register as gay domestic partners to retain one's pension benefits. Despite a Shylock-esque call for tolerance and understanding, the movie perpetuates so many gay stereotypes and includes so much underlying homophobia that not just the movie's story but its comic sensibilities are undermined. A statement from FIREFLAG/EMS, an organization of LGBT members of the NYPD, shows far broader tolerance and generosity than the movie's main characters:

"Chuck and Larry" is, of course, a comedy and some of the humor may be considered offensive to some, but the growth of the principal characters during the course of the film is the ultimate measure of how to judge the intent and heart of the filmmakers.

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