Adam Sandler might be the most perplexing movie star working today. He churns out a movie or two a year, makes a decent grab at the box office and occasionally even earns good reviews. The thing that makes him so bothersome to me isn’t the boy-man character he’s perfected in movies like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmour or his penchant for bathroom humor, it’s his inconsistency. Just when I thought he had turned a corner with the excellent Reign Over Me from earlier this year into interesting adult roles he slaps me in the face with his follow-up, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Here’s the best thing I can say about this movie: at least it’s not a sequel (it is, however, a remake of the Australian film Strange Bedfellows). It’s the story of two straight beer-guzzling New York City firemen, played by Sandler and Kevin James, who pretend to be a gay couple to receive domestic partner benefits. After the insurance company sends investigators around to determine the veracity of their relationship the men hire a lawyer (Jessica Biel) to protect their rights. Of course Sandler falls for her which jeopardizes their whole scheme.
I’m not sure what aggravated me most about this movie. The critic in me was irritated by Sandler’s backslide into lowbrow comedy. The movie goer in me was annoyed by the almost complete lack of humor on display here and the human in me was disappointed that a movie like this, one that claims to support equal rights for everyone could be so deeply homophobic. What could have been an interesting and funny look at how the soulless government and insurance company bureaucracy can force people into compromising situations instead becomes a repository for the kind of crude stereotypes that kept Rock Hudson in the closet for his entire career.
The idea for this movie might have come from a noble place. Perhaps the writers were trying to create a mainstream ode to tolerance and acceptance, but, in a confusing turnaround, seem to have embraced the very kind of narrow-mindedness it preaches against. After almost two hours of gay caricatures and fat jokes one speech at the end about the dangers of poking fun at people who are different from you doesn’t qualify as justification, it’s simply hypocritical.