I really loved the early Adam Sandler comedies, but his comedic output has been pretty grim lately. I expected better things from I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry for two reasons:co-screenwriters Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. Along with the involvement of Steve Buscemi (and I'll be honest, the Jessica Biel underwear shot in the trailer), seeing Payne and Taylor's names in the credits had me downright excited to see the film. They're two of my favorite screenwriters -- Citizen Ruth, Election, Sideways, the beautiful About Schmidt -- these dudes can write. They did an uncredited polish on one of my favorite comedies of this decade -- Meet the Parents -- and I had high hopes that they'd take the struggling Sandler formula into similar territory. I hoped they'd make Chuck and Larry darker, more interesting, more truthful. And apparently they did. You just won't see that version on the screen. Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells discusses the Payne/Taylor draft of the film.
According to Wells, the Payne/Taylor version "is way more invested in realism -- recognizable human behavior, logical bits and plot turns, real-seeming textures. It's obviously a "comedy" but the tone is less slap-sticky, more naturalistic." Wells discusses a lot of differences between the Payne/Taylor script and what wound up in theaters (like a Sandler/James kiss that didn't make it to the final cut), and closes by writing "I've thought and thought about this, and I know a Payne-Taylor version would have gone over better than the one opening on Friday. I know it. Certainly with the critics and the genuinely serious comedy fans (i.e., the ones who own DVDs of Some Like It Hot and Tootsie and Flirting With Disaster)." I do often wonder how many Hollywood movies start out in script form as strong and original and different and weird, and wind up lifeless and unimaginative and boring and stale. I'd imagine a whole lot of crappy films started out great on the page. I hear all these horror stories from writers who had their visions massacred by studios and executives, stars and directors, and it makes me sad. I'll still see the film (hey, it's got to be better than Click, right?), but with lowered expectations. If you get Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor to work on your script, doesn't it make sense to listen to absolutely everything they have to say?