Critical Consensus: Hairspray is Certified Fresh; Chuck And Larry is On The Rocks

How much cross-dressing and gay innuendo can one Friday handle?

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This week at the movies, we've got straight firemen in a domestic partnership (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Jessica Biel), and John Travolta in drag (Hairspray, also starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, and Amanda Bynes). What do the critics have to say?

On a good day, Adam Sandler is one of the funniest people on the planet. And with Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, he's proven himself to be a capable dramatic actor as well. Unfortunately, critics say his latest, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, does not represent much of a creative advance for New Hampshire's favorite son. Sandler and Kevin James star as two Brooklyn firefighters who, in a bind, pretend to be a gay couple to qualify for domestic partnership benefits. While the film's moral is an admirable one (homophobia isn't kosher), critics say Chuck and Larry tries to have it both ways by utilizing shopworn gay stereotypes for laughs before arriving at a preachy message of tolerance. At 21 percent on the Tomatometer, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry has the wedding bell blues.

Jessica Biel in Catwoman 2: The Reckoning.  Rowr!

With all the goodwill that John Waters' 1988 cult classic has inspired, some may have wondered if world need another movie version of Hairspray. The answer, say critics, is a resounding yes; in fact, most are calling it one of the summer's best and brightest offerings. Nikki Blonsky stars as Tracy, a good-natured teen whose ambition is to join the cast of a local teen dance TV show; with the help of her mom Edna (John Travolta), she learns to love her stout self and the value of desegregation. Critics say Waters' campy subversion may have been softened this time, but Hairspray is still a ton of fun, featuring rousing musical numbers and sharp performances from its all-star cast, which includes Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, and James Marsden. At 93 percent on the Tomatometer, Hairspray is not only Certified Fresh, it's also one of the best-reviewed wide releases of the year. And it matches up well with Waters' original, at 94 percent.

"Stay tuned, kids: The Hackneyed Harold Show is up next after these messages!"

Also opening this week in limited release: Live-In Maid, a delicate Argentine class-conflict satire, is at 100 percent; Your Mommy Kills Animals, an even-handed doc about animal rights activism featuring interviews with Katherine Heigl, Moby, and Jessica Biel, is at 100 percent; Sunshine, Danny Boyle's sci-fi tale about a crew hoping to revive the sun before it dies starring Cillian Murphy, is at 81 percent (check out our interview with Boyle here); Scrap Heaven, an stylish examination of urban disaffection in Japan, is at 60 percent; Cashback, a tale of an art student who can see the world frozen in time, is at 41 percent; and Goya's Ghosts, Milos Foreman's biopic of the great Spanish painter starring Natalie Portman and Javier Bardem, is at 23 percent.

"Reignite the sun?  I was just trying to find out where the Sly Stone concert was."

Recent Adam Sandler Movies:
63% -- Reign Over Me (2007)
32% -- Click (2006)
30% -- The Longest Yard (2005)
53% -- Spanglish (2004)
44% -- 50 First Dates (2004)