September 20, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
Adam Sandler, Damon Wayans
Ernest Dickerson
Comedy, Mystery and Thriller, ActionAdventure
We gave it a D

On the lazy-producer theory that if you throw the shtick-driven personas of Saturday Night Live or In Living Color players up on the screen enough times, something might stick (exhibit A, God help us: Chris Farley and David Spade), Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler are teamed up as wacky action buddies in Bulletproof. Ernest Dickerson (Juice) directs this salt-and-pepper caper, in which undercover cop Keats (Wayans) forms an unlikely friendship with his quarry, Moses (Sandler), the even more unlikely assistant to a drug kingpin (James Caan) — and that’s after Moses has shot Keats in the head, necessitating a steel plate where other people house a sense of self-respect.

But what’s worth noting is not that Sandler plays the same high-pitched, boyish, happy-idiot guy he has already exhausted in Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and 42 years of SNL; nor that Wayans coughs up another variation on the standard smarter-than-he-talks snarly black guy he trotted out in Major Payne; nor that both reasonably talented comics would be much more profitably employed as sitcom characters; nor that James Caan has colluded in becoming a cartoon version of himself; nor even that the antics in Bulletproof are about as fresh as a boys’ locker room at the end of a humid day. And I won’t waste time on the gratuitous treatment of the only woman in the story (Kristen Wilson), except to note that she is, at one point, called a bitch, which is, historically, how all women are treated in buddy films by buddies who are terrified unto pants wetting by human beings with breasts.

It is, however, well worth unnerving Sandler and Wayans as well as the studio and any potential moviegoers by stressing that Bulletproof is, in truth, a deeply romantic love story between two men who — all their tittery homophobic jokes to the contrary — adore each other with a passion far greater than that exhibited toward anything in this gutless comedy. When Moses looks at Keats, there is such tenderness in his dim-weasel face that I think a real opportunity has been missed: Universal should have marketed this formulaic drivel as the taboo love story it really is, and then watched its stars run for cover. D

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