In what can only be described as a throwback to the awkward "gay" farces of the 1970s and '80s — think THE RITZ and PARTNERS — this painfully uncomfortable buddy comedy trips all over itself to say something positive while still managing to offend. Worse still, it's just not funny.
Widowed New York City firefighter Larry Valentine (Kevin James) has gotten hopelessly entangled in the red tape required to make his two kids the prime beneficiaries of his life-insurance policy rather than his late wife; as far as he can see, the easiest course of action would be to remarry. Unfortunately, the only person in the world he would trust with his kids' future is his partner, incorrigible womanizer Chuck (Adam Sandler). Luckily, the NYFD extends benefits to the domestic partners of gay firefighters, so Larry gets the bright — and highly illegal — idea of cheating the system by declaring Chuck as his live-in lover. Chuck isn’t exactly what you’d call gay-friendly and is dead-set against it, but since he owes Larry big time for saving his life, he very reluctantly agrees to the scheme. To make sure they've got all their bases covered, Chuck and Larry consult with inconveniently sexy lawyer Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), who believes their gay-and-in-love story and suggests they seal the deal by going to Canada, where gay marriage is legal, and tying the knot for good (despite the fact that such a marriage wouldn't be recognized as legally binding in the U.S.). When word gets out, the sneers and snickers of other firemen turn out to be the least of Chuck and Larry's worries: If they're ever outed as straight men, Chuck and Larry will both face imprisonment for fraud.
Cowritten by Barry Fanaro, Jim Taylor and, shockingly, Alexander Payne (whose CITIZEN RUTH proves he once understood dark social satire), the script relies heavily on the disingenuous tactic of putting offensive jokes into the mouths of obvious knuckleheads. Are we laughing at them or with them? Does it really matter? There are no three-dimensional gay characters to offset the stereotypes: The usually very funny Nick Swardson, who plays Alex's gay brother, only reinforces them, and Ving Rhames' bizarre bump-and-grind in the firehouse shower is downright freaky. While the basic message — which is delivered with ham-fisted obviousness in the requisite courtroom scene — is an important one, it's so awkwardly delivered you can't help but squirm along with those in the audience ready to riot at the sight of two men kissing. Ironically, while the movie turns cartwheels to make everything OK in the end with gay audiences, it manages to thoughtlessly offend just about everyone else, particularly three groups on whom it's always open season: Italian-Americans, who are blithely referred to as "guidos" by Alex, the movie's "smart" character; women, who are simply treated as meat; and Asians, who, in Rob Schneider's bucktoothed, R- and L-flipping cameo, are subjected to the most egregious caricature since Mickey Rooney in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S. leave a comment --Ken Fox