Not as zany as you would hope and a preachy aplenty by the film’s end.
When New York City firefighter Larry Valentine (Kevin James) realizes that the opportunity to will his death benefits to take care of his children has lapsed, he becomes desperate enough to ask friend and fellow firefighter Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) for assistance. His solution? Create a domestic partnership, but only on paper. Unfortunately, a bureaucratic investigator for the city (Steve Buscemi) challenges the partnership as fraud, forcing Chuck and Larry to do whatever is necessary to keep up pretenses. With a hot lawyer (Jessica Biel) drawing Chuck’s wandering eye and a fire chief (Dan Aykroyd) refusing to cover for either of them, how long will it take for the entire ruse to come crashing down?
First off, I would be remiss if I didn’t confirm everyone’s worst fears: there’s nothing special or exceptional about this film (other than Jessica Biel as a rubber-suited catwoman). The first act is chock full of gay jokes, the second act becomes a lesson in stereotype tolerance, and the third act gets all preachy and weepy before the mandatory happy Hollywood ending. While pushing a PG-13 rating, the film generally flows more like a after-school family film about accepting differences in others than an all-out Happy Madison comedy.
True, it’s still a Happy Madison film, but most of the best bits are all in the trailer. The film generally spins everything together, leaving out only the things you can’t show in a family-friendly environment. There’s a little more Jessica Biel and plenty of anatomy references, but the film never really gets off cruise control to let completely loose. On the flip side of the coin, the story neither delves as deeply as 50 First Dates, which isn’t to say that Sandler and James don’t have good chemistry, it’s just more like a 90-minute sitcom than a feature comedy film.
The Gay community may not want Adam Sandler as a spokesperson, but the entire film feels eerily like a community service project for someone making drunken slurs against same-sex couples or something. With a constant and lingering sense of “don’t go too far” and “kids might be watching,” Chuck and Larry is a guarded comedy too gun shy to take its concept to the zany, over-the-top heights fans of Sandler have come to expect.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)