Chuck Levine, a womanizing bachelor, and Larry Valentine, a widower struggling to raise his two children, are two veteran New York City firefighters. During a routine sweep of a burned building, a segment of floor collapses on Chuck, but Larry saves his life. Chuck vows to repay Larry in any way possible. Experiencing an epiphany from the incident, Larry tries to increase his life insurance policy, but he runs into difficulties naming his children as primary beneficiaries. He is told he should remarry so his new spouse can be the primary beneficiary; however, no one specifies whom he has to marry.
Inspired by a newspaper article about domestic partnerships, Larry asks Chuck to enter a civil union with him. Although Chuck declines at first, he is reminded of his debt to Larry and finally agrees, entering a domestic partnership and becoming Larry's primary beneficiary in the event of his death. To their dismay, however, investigators arrive to inquire about their abrupt partnership, suspecting fraud. Chuck and Larry decide to enlist the help of lawyer Alex McDonough, who suggests they get married and move in together to prove they are committed; Chuck reluctantly agrees. The pair travel to Niagara Falls in Canada for a quick same sex marriage at a wedding chapel and begin living together.
At a gay benefit costume party, the partygoers are confronted by homophobic protesters. Chuck is provoked into punching their leader, and the incident is picked up by the local news. With their apparent homosexuality and marriage revealed, Chuck and Larry are heckled, and their fellow FDNY firefighters refuse to work with them. Their only ally is Fred G. Duncan, an angry, intimidating firefighter who comes out to Chuck.
Chuck becomes romantically interested in Alex after the two spend time together, but finds himself unable to get close to her because she thinks he is gay. In another meeting at her apartment, Chuck and Alex are making charm bracelets. They soon kiss, but Alex, still believing Chuck is gay and married, is shocked and immediately distances herself from Chuck. Meanwhile, city agent Clinton Fitzer arrives to investigate the couple, and the strain on both Larry and Chuck causes them to fight. Larry learns about the kiss and confronts Chuck about it, asserting that Chuck's absence is jeopardizing their ability to maintain the ruse of their relationship. During the argument, Larry reveals that he is still in love with his deceased wife, Paula, and Chuck responds that he needs to move on for the sake of his children. Later that evening, a petition circulates to have Chuck and Larry thrown out of the firehouse. Upon discovering it, a hurtful Larry confronts the crew about personal embarrassments on the job that Chuck and Larry helped them overcome. Afterwards, Chuck and Larry reconcile their differences.
Eventually, numerous women publicly testify to having slept with Chuck in the recent past, and the couple is called into court to defend their marriage against charges of fraud. They are defended by Alex, and their fellow firefighters arrive in support, having realized all that Chuck and Larry have done for them over the years. Fitzer interrogates both men, and eventually demands the pair to kiss to prove that their relationship is physical. Before they do so, Chuck and Larry are interrupted by FDNY Captain Phineas J. Tucker, who reveals their marriage to be a sham and that they are both straight. He then offers to be arrested as well, since he knew about the false relationship but failed to report it. This prompts each of the other firefighters to claim a role in the wedding in a show of solidarity. Chuck, Larry, and the other firefighters are sent to jail, but they are quickly released after negotiating a deal to provide photos for an AIDS research benefit calendar, and Chuck and Larry keep their benefits.
Two months later, Duncan and Alex's brother, Kevin, are married in Niagara Falls at the same chapel as Chuck and Larry. At the wedding party, Larry moves on from the death of his wife and talks to a new woman, while Alex agrees to a dance with Chuck.Adam Sandler as Charles Todd "Chuck" Levine
Kevin James as Lawrence Arthur "Larry" Valentine
Jessica Biel as Alex McDonough
Dan Aykroyd as Captain Phineas J. Tucker
Ving Rhames as Fred G. Duncan
Steve Buscemi as Clinton Fitzer
Peter Dante as Tony Paroni
Nicholas Turturro as Renaldo Pinera
Rachel Dratch as Sara Powers
Allen Covert as Steve
Richard Chamberlain as Councilman Banks
Nick Swardson as Kevin McDonough
Lance Bass as Bandleader
Cole Morgen as Eric Valentine
Shelby Adamowsky as Tori Valentine
Dave Matthews as Salesman
Blake Clark as Crazy homeless man
Dan Patrick as New York cop
Chandra West as "Doctor Honey"
Tila Tequila and Jamie Chung as Hooters girls
Dennis Dugan as Cab driver
Rob Corddry as Jim the minister
Jonathan Loughran as David Nootzie
Becky and Jessie O'Donohue as Donna and Darla
Robert Smigel as Mailman
David Spade (uncredited) as Transvestite groupie
Rob Schneider (uncredited) as Asian minister
Arne Starr (uncredited) as Court supporter
Jim Ford (uncredited) as Criminal stuck in chimney
Producer Tom Shadyac had planned this film as early as 1999. I Now Pronounce You Joe and Benny, as the film was then titled, was announced as starring Nicolas Cage and Will Smith with Shadyac directing. In the official trailer, the song "Grace Kelly" by British pop star, Mika, was included.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 14% of 156 reviews surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the rating is 3.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Whether by way of inept comedy or tasteless stereotypes, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry falters on both levels." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 37 out of 100 based on 33 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
USA Today called it "a movie that gives marriage, homosexuality, friendship, firefighters, children and nearly everything else a bad name." The Wall St Journal calls it "an insult to gays, straights, men, women, children, African-Americans, Asians, pastors, mailmen, insurance adjusters, firemen, doctors -- and fans of show music."
The New York Post called it not an insult to homosexuality but to comedy itself. The Miami Herald was slightly less critical, calling the film "funny in the juvenile, crass way we expect."
Nathan Lee from the Village Voice wrote a positive review, praising the film for being "tremendously savvy in its stupid way" and "as eloquent as Brokeback Mountain, and even more radical." Controversial critic Armond White championed the film as "a modern classic" for its "ultimate moral lesson—that sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with who Chuck and Larry are as people".
Chuck & Larry grossed $34,233,750 and ranked #1 at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, higher than the other opening wide release that weekend, Hairspray, and the previous weekend's #1 film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. By the end of its run, the film had grossed $120,059,556 domestically and $66,012,658 internationally for a worldwide total of $186,072,214.
The film received eight Golden Raspberry Award nominations including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Adam Sandler), Worst Supporting Actor (both Kevin James and Rob Schneider), Worst Supporting Actress (Jessica Biel), Worst Director (Dennis Dugan), Worst Screenplay and Worst Screen Couple (Adam Sandler with either Kevin James or Jessica Biel), but failed to win any.
Response from social groups
The film was screened prior to release for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). GLAAD representative Damon Romine told Entertainment Weekly magazine: "The movie has some of the expected stereotypes, but in its own disarming way, it's a call for equality and respect".
According to Alexander Payne, the writer of an initial draft of the film, Sandler took many liberties with his screenplay, "Sandler-izing" the film, in his own words. At some point, he did not want his name attached to the project.
Critics have also said the character played by Rob Schneider is a racist caricature and he was also criticized for donning Yellowface.
In November 2007, the producers of the Australian film Strange Bedfellows initiated legal action against Universal Studios for copyright violation. The suit was withdrawn in April 2008 after the producers of Strange Bedfellows received an early draft of Chuck & Larry that predated their film, and they were satisfied that they had not been plagiarized.