An Australian production company is in a legal battle against a the producers of I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, an American comedy about two firemen who pretend to be gay to claim benefits from the government.

The producers of Strange Bedfellows accused actor and film producer Adam Sandler and his company Happy Madison of ripping off the plot of a 2004 film, where two men passed themselves off as a gay couple to obtain legal benefits.

According to the lawsuit, obtained by tmz.com, actor Rob Schneider gave a copy of Strange Bedfellows to his friend Sandler, who then allegedly stole the idea and made his own movie, which grossed some $150 million (£73.4m) since its release in July.

The lawsuit alleged that Sandler’s company “continuously infringed copyright by distributing, selling, producing, and claiming authorship” over their movie.

But several critics have said the idea of a faux-gay couple and of claiming a different sexual orientation to get legal benefits is much older.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry itself is a reversed version of 1996 movie The Birdcage, where a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancĂ©’s right-wing moralistic parents.

Since its release, Chuck and Larry has also drawn attention on the social issues involved.

Some critics, although admitting that the comedy was full with stereotypes, said it would cast a somehow good light on gay rights related issues.

Kalamazoo Gazette’s Lisa Rose wrote that it was difficult to define whether the movie was a progressive or a reactionary one.

“Although it supports gay marriage, the movie is packed with stereotypes that negate its message.

“The problem here is that the picture delivers 90 minutes of gay caricatures, along with a barrage of fat jokes, and culminates by lecturing the audience about how wrong it is to mock those who are different,” she said.

According to Damon Romine, of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, there was a use of stereotypes and slurs, but he added:

“At the end of the day, this is a comedy that actually stresses the importance of family and treating others with dignity and respect. The film actually does send a very strong message.”