I wanted to hate this caper about two straight firefighters (Adam Sandler and Kevin James) pretending to be gay for the benefits. But though stereotypes pour out of the movie like cheap wine—astonishingly, the screenplay is credited to Sideways' Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, plus Barry Fanaro—they serve a broader (I won't say deeper) theme about the inseparability of homophobia and deep sexual anxiety. It's a stretch to buy Sandler as the firehouse Lothario, but love him or hate him, the comedian has always understood that winking at the audience can derail a comedy in seconds, and that if you're going to offend liberal sensibilities you have to go all the way. He and James play out their skittish Honeymooners routine absolutely straight, while the world around them erupts into an orgy of limp wrists, ethnic stereotypes, and closet cases, with dainty Jessica Biel displaying more guts than talent for physical comedy as the couple's lawyer. If nothing else, Chuck and Larry should open up a whole new career path for the ineffably funny, unself-consciously buck naked Ving Rhames as an über-macho firefighter who's been sitting on a little secret of his own.
James (left) and Sandler bend their wrists.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., July 20. Rated PG-13. 110 minutes.