THE LONGEST YARD (Peter Segal, 2005)
Robert Aldrich’s 1974 prison football flick with Burt Reynolds is remade as the Adam Sandler movie THE LONGEST YARD. Sandler stars as disgraced quarterback Paul Crewe, who was booted from the pros for shaving points. In an alcohol-fueled fury Crewe leads police on a high-speed chase that ends with a big cop car pile-up and his imprisonment. A Texas warden with political aspirations works the system to get Crewe transferred to his penitentiary. He wants the former QB to help with his prison guard football team. Crewe refuses but eventually is put in charge of assembling a ragtag squad of convicts to scrimmage the guards.
From the adrenalized soundtrack to the hard-hitting football sequences, THE LONGEST YARD brims with testosterone. In keeping with the film’s macho pose, Sandler gives his usual puppy-eyed little boy schtick a much-needed rest, but nevertheless, THE LONGEST YARD is still very much a film in keeping with his juvenile brand of comedy. The cartoonish way in which the characters are played drains the film of any grittiness the setting is supposed to provide. It’s more like a summer camp for rappers, wrestlers, and ex-athletes. Even behind bars a Sandler film works in more than a few front and center product placements, with a fast food restaurant being the main beneficiary. The repetition of prison rape and gay panic jokes plays like the worst sort of audience pandering. In spite of a major screenplay stretch—Crewe commits his crime in California yet ends up in the Texas penal system—THE LONGEST YARD is one of the more competently assembled Sandler films. (PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is the notable exception to the rule.) It’s likely that this film will hold higher appeal for those more susceptible to Sandler’s routine than I am. While THE LONGEST YARD plays its audience like a piano, it’s a tune that sounds uninteresting to these ears.
(Review first aired in a shorter version on the June 7, 2005 NOW PLAYING)