Adam Sandler unites with director Dennis Dugan for the third time, after Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, but the curious credits here involve Election and Sideways writer/director Payne with his co-writer Taylor. Maybe this would be a little more high-minded than the usual Sandler comedy? Well…a little. It’s difficult to find their fingerprints in this one.
Big-time womanizer Chuck Levine (Sandler) and his widowed buddy Larry Valentine (Kevin James) are Brooklyn FDNYs. After a close call on the job, Larry starts thinking about his kids, the precocious Tori (Shelby Adamowsky) and the soon-to-realize-he’s-gay Eric (Cole Morgen), how his pension won’t kick in because he didn’t fill out the proper forms when his wife died. If he gets married again, he can get his pension to work for him.
Still shell-shocked by his wife’s death, Larry doesn’t feel like replacing her with some sham lover, and with the New York laws granting pensions to alternative unions, gets the idea that he and Chuck could get married. Just fill out the forms and instantly the problem is solved. But, the city is going to check out such claims, and they get legal advice from smokin’ hot lawyer Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), who warns them of stalking bureaucrat Clinton Fitzer (Steve Buscemi), who wants to catch them in a lie.
Yeah, Chuck and Alex get along as “girlfriends” and the libidinous Chuck has to keep the lie going while Alex struts around nearly naked. Also adding to the problems are that Chuck and Larry, seen as a gay couple, are ostracized by their fellow firefighters (the usual Sandler friend crew, plus Nicholas Turturro, Ving Rhames, and their knowing captain played by Dan Aykroyd), and suddenly they’re getting the “now you know how it feels” treatment. And, what comedy would be complete these days without Nick Swardson, here playing Biel’s gay brother, showing up spewing random lines much like he did earlier this year with Blades of Glory.
So we have traces of that old Sandler weirdness from the nineties here and there, mixed with his familiar “legitimate” comedy stylings, made all the better with James at his side. It’s a one-joke premise for the most part, but it does get some good laughs, some good crowd-pleasing moments (the funniest comes from Morgen’s face-off with a bully), and fits the bill for the most part.
Predictably, with a courtroom finish, the movie begins a huge tailspin and ends without much to laugh about. Much like In & Out, in which Kevin Kline has to fight for his job in the end, to find unexpected support from people who are put off by homosexuality for the whole film only to find some magical (unbelievable) 180 degree utopian conscience when it’s called for, the laughs start to dwindle. A wittier film would have tried to avoid the whole courtroom thing and found a better role for Steve Buscemi to play.
But until that point, it’s a good time and most people will leave happy.