As clichéd as it may sound, “A friend in need is a friend indeed” speaks volumes about Adam Sandler's new, potentially taboo-busting comedy, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” Through the silliness, Sandler's films tend to find a way to get across important messages. The themes of friendship and acceptance (or at least tolerance), by far, are at the heart of this comedy.
After the death of his wife, Larry Valentine (Kevin James) is concerned for the well-being of his two children and looks for a beneficiary to take care of them because of his high-risk job as a Brooklyn firefighter. From a helpful tip by a “more than generous” insurance representative (Rachel Dratch of “Saturday Night Live”), he's told that the only way there will be a beneficiary is if he gets married. Larry, by happenstance, comes across an article telling of a newly passed law allowing couples with domestic partnerships to reap the same benefits as those in traditional marriages. Having a virtually non-existent love life, he proposes the idea immediately to fellow firefighter and best friend Chuck Levine (Adam Sandler) as a way to return the favor after saving Chuck's life. The state of New York, aware of individuals entering partnerships for spoils, hires an investigator, Clinton Fitzer, played by perennial silver-screen oaf Steve Buscemi. A domestic partnership isn't convincing enough for the state, so, to make the faux relationship seem legitimate, Chuck and Larry head north of the border to get married. Aware of the potential litigation they may face, they seek counsel from lawyer Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), who immediately befriends the convincingly gay Chuck, leading to much girl-talk and one unforgettable ass-jiggling, panty-pulling moment.
The funniest scenes, though, happen outside the main plot. Nowhere can you find a better example than in Ving Rhames, who makes his big-screen comedy debut as Duncan, a gay, intimidating fireman who is afraid to come out of the closet, but is inspired by Chuck and Larry's phony relationship. This leads to an eyebrow-raising shower scene where he and Chuck croon to “I'm Every Woman,” as fellow firefighters look on in utter disbelief.
Sandler's humor can get quite tiring if you're not a fan; however, the relationship between the screen duo is well balanced by James' role as the more serious single father. If anything besides the message lends this film any remotely redeeming qualities, it's definitely the cameos. Dratch isn't the only former “SNL” cast member who graces us with her presence; Rob Schneider and David Spade provide the kind of humor we've come to expect from “SNL” alumni. Nonetheless, the presence, wit and humor of the familiar aren't enough to undermine the ridiculousness of the plot and its fairy-tale ending. It appears that sometimes, you don't need a great plot to send a message.