Adam Sandler as Chuck Levine
Kevin James as Larry Valentine
Jessica Biel as Alex McDonough
Dan Aykroyd as Captain Tucker
Nick Swardson as Kevin McDonough
Ving Rhames as Duncan
Steve Buscemi as Clinton Fitzer
Nicholas Turturro as Renaldo Pinera
Allen Covert as Steve
Rachel Dratch as Benefits Supervisor
Richard Chamberlain as Councilman Banks
Blake Clark as Crazy Homeless Man
Mary Pat Gleason as Teresa
Matt Winston as Glen Aldrich
Directed by Dennis Dugan
“Chuck and Larry” is as politically incorrect as previous Sandler flicks, but it offers a comedy premise that supplies plenty of sidesplitting laughs (and not just gay jokes either) as well as a strong, touching message about tolerance and acceptance.
Ladies’ man Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) and single father Larry Valentine (Kevin James) are New York firefighters and best friends who have to pretend to be gay life partners when Larry has problems with his pension and Chuck offers to help to repay a favor. When the city questions the veracity of the duo’s sexuality, they hire a sexy lawyer (Jessica Biel) to try to help them get around a snooping city investigator (Steve Buscemi).
You might have to dig fairly deeply to find the contributions of Sideways writers Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor in the latest Adam Sandler comedy, because Sandler’s footprint overpowers any sense of subtlety the Oscar-winning duo may have brought to the mix. That said, there’s definitely something on the verge of refinement here that might show that Sandler is trying to grow up and use some of his low-brow comedy for good.
Some of the credit of why “Chuck and Larry” works should go to director Dennis Dugan, who helmed Sandler’s “Happy Gilmore” and “Big Daddy” and seems to have figured out the perfect Sandler formula. In this case, it starts with scenes of Sandler and his co-star Kevin James fighting fires and saving lives to add some veracity to the idea of them as firemen, which is easier to believe than Sandler as a calendar pin-up and ladies’ man who can juggle five women in the bedroom at a time. In that sense, it starts very much like any other Sandler male fantasy before slowly drifting into something that’s far more character driven and richer with story developments and subplots.
It’s not particularly genre-defying in its characterization of Larry as a widower mourning his wife and fretting that his fey son prefer musicals over sports, but putting Kevin James in this role adds another dimension to the normal Sandler sidekick, balancing Sandler’s bravura with honest emotions and genuine likeability. When James mourns his late wife, it’s actually rather touching, and you actually do wind-up rooting for him in his squabbles with Sandler, the two of them displaying chemistry on a par with Abbott and Costello as they raise the ante on James’ famous kissing scene with Will Smith from “Hitch.”
Thankfully, “Chuck and Larry” isn’t one of those comedies that spoils the funniest jokes in the commercials and trailer, but only because most of them probably couldn’t be shown. Sandler certainly takes an even raunchier approach this time around, and one presumes that this only got a PG-13 by virtue of his studio having included even more graphic sexual humor in other movies. For instance, the commercials could never show the entire scene of Chuck being invited by his sexy lawyer Alex (Jessica Biel) to her apartment, where she urges him to feel her breasts to prove they’re real. (Remember that she thinks he’s a gay man at the time.) It gives Sandler the chance to grope, fondle and play with Biel’s ample boobs in a way that only a movie’s producer could get away with, and while it might be an easy laugh, it’s also genuinely funny. Jessica Biel might not be the most convincing attorney, but man, is it a pleasure to know that she’s willing to disrobe for the sake of comedy. There’s also a hilarious scene in which Ving Rhames plays off his tough guy image in the firehouse showers, and long-time Sandler pal Nick Swardson steals a few scenes as a flamboyantly gay character, much like he did in “Blades of Glory” and “Reno 911! Miami” earlier this year. Steve Buscemi’s back in funny mode as the obsessive city inspector Clinton Spitzer trying to bust Chuck and Larry’s fraudulent relationship, but you might be shocked when a well-respected dramatic actor like Richard Chamberlain shows up late in the movie.
The movie suffers some of the same third act problems as Sandler’s previous movies where he’s shot his load by using up the best jokes. Following the normal Sandler comedy route, it’s where things start to get more serious and real.
While it’s hard to justify humor based on homophobia and ignorance about gay lifestyles, once the newly-married duo face the same type of prejudice and hatred they once had towards gays, they start to understand why it’s wrong and make an effort to change others’ opinions on the matter.
Any worries that Sandler has gone completely soft should be dissuaded by Rob Schneider’s appearance as a silly pseudo-Chinese stereotype who marries the duo in Canada in a ridiculous wedding sequence, which is the one time where a gag falls flat. There are also a couple obvious plot holes that don’t make sense like why the guys’ sexuality suddenly becomes such a huge public spectacle, to the point where their story is in the newspapers when this type of thing wouldn’t even make the backpages. Other than that, the movie shows what putting a bit more time into a script can accomplish when it comes to comedy.
The Bottom Line:
Sure, some will claim that this comedy is as juvenile as anything else Sandler has done, but underneath the testosterone-driven grab-ass humor and physical gags, there’s a great message about tolerance that puts it a notch or two above other recent Sandler movies. It also includes some really funny sequences that are sure to stand up to repeat viewings, which is not normally the case.