The Longest Yard, Indeed

by Aaron on May 27, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

This is a no-brain summer comedy that has a built in audience of frats boys, frat boys to be, and former glory frat men. While certainly not a laugh riot, The Longest Yard is actually awful per se, and filmgoers who want a break from the special effects orgies but don’t want kids fare or teen drama will most likely flock to it in droves.

The Longest Yard
2 Stars

At the recent New York premier of The Longest Yard, Burt Reynolds slapped a reporter for not ever having seen the 1974 version of the seminal football film. (You can read my review of the recent DVD release HERE) While Reynolds’ publicist has tried to laugh off the incident by saying it was a playful jest, I’m left to wonder if star Adam Sandler and director Pete Segal got similar treatment on the set, because obviously they haven’t seen it either.

See that expression. Get used to it

This time around Sandler takes the role of Paul “Wrecking” Crewe a former NFL quarterback who was booted from the league for points shaving. Sick of his life as a kept boy-toy for a harridan-like Courtney Cox, Crewe goes on a wild, drunken joyride through the city and ending up in hoosegow. Unbeknownst to him, the warden (James Cromwell) has had Crewe sent to his facility in the hopes that Crewe will help his guards’ struggling semi-pro team. Soon enough Crewe and ace hustler The Caretaker (Chris Rock) are putting together an inmate team to give the guards an easy win and the inmates some much desired payback. Along the way friendships are forged The Man gets it stuck to, and no real lessons are learned.

I try to avoid comparing remakes to their source material, but in this case what’s missing from The Longest Yard makes it impossible to avoid. Sandler’s Crewe isn’t the selfish and amoral cad that Reynolds portrayed in the original, nor does Sandler experience any form of character arc or change of heart. He’s playing it straight here, which means a nearly comatose delivery almost devoid of likability. To make matters worse, Sandler has to share the screen with Reynolds, who in even his diminished role still bears the charm and aura that made him such a ubiquitous screen presence in the 70’s. Where Sandler can do barely-contained rage, Reynolds is the epitome of macho cool, an ingredient sorely lacking from this film.

Chris Rock continues his unwavering tradition of bug-eyed delivery of invariably racial jokes, but sadly he’s the comedic highlight of the film. The cast of criminal losers they assemble to form the inmate team feel like the kind of caricatures more suited to a Rob Schneider vehicle, all man-childs and morons. There’s no hint of the brutal sociopaths that filled the original, and their desire to inflict brutal revenge on the guards that torment them is mostly talked about but rarely felt.

But this is a football movie, so no matter the plot or characters a film like has to live or die on the quality of the sports action, and yet again this remake falls far short of the superb gamesmanship of the original. Either due to direction, cinematography, or editing the football game that comprises the third act of the film is just a jumbled mass of quick cuts and hit shots with jokes thrown in willy-nilly. The original, while no masterpiece, earned its place in the canon of great sports films on the weight of the game itself as much as it’s anti-establishment underdog story. Sandler’s version plays like it was designed by someone who knew of football, but not what makes it such a compelling sport to watch.

This is a no-brain summer comedy that has a built in audience of frats boys, frat boys to be, and former glory frat men. While certainly not a laugh riot, The Longest Yard is actually awful per se, and filmgoers who want a break from the special effects orgies but don’t want kids fare or teen drama will most likely flock to it in droves.

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