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The Longest Yard

Peter Segal, USA, 2005

Rating: 2.9

 

Posted: May 31, 2005

Geez, this is a real tough spot my editor has put me in. I get to go see The Longest Yard on the company’s dime, but now I gotta review the damn thing. I think it's only fair to admit that this is the first flick I have seen since I attended Star Wars Episode III last week, also on the company’s … uh… I mean, on my own time. It’s hard to come down off that high to any other film and be objective; it’s like eating a steak, and then the next day having a Big Mac for a meal. Be that as it may, I shall pass an objective analysis of this Adam Sandler offering, and my proclamation shall go forth.

Some films just don’t need to be remade, like The Amityville Horror, while others should not be made at all (such as The Village). 1974’s The Longest Yard was not unlike any other underdog tale of the period: inmates vs. guards in a prison football contest. The downtrodden unite to face the “establishment,” and somewhere in the process we see the value of human dignity and the overcoming of oppression. Sadly, in the remake, this noble idea seldom makes its way off the silver screen. I love football and football films, but I just don’t see why this film had to be remade, much less remade by this crew. Now, before you scoff, hear me out! I could probably take Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and a few other SNL alumni and remake almost any flick and get the same halfway amusing product in the end. Hell, if they remade The Shawshank Redemption, the results would have been pretty much the same.

Adam Sandler has certainly done a magnificent job of creating a niche for himself in Hollywood, and he fills it well. Not many actors can do what he does and have it consistently yield a begrudging giggle; I believe it's a lot harder to be funny than it is to be dramatic. But in this film, Sandler tries to walk the line between fallen hero and SNL skit character a bit too often, and the result is that he seems like he’s just going through the motions. I don’t think the role of a point-shaving, fallen-hero quarterback lets Sandler do what he does best, because he has to carry around the character’s guilt, yet shed it at moments when comedy is afoot, and he's not skilled enough to pull off the balancing act. Chris Rock is also one damn funny man, but here, all he does is rehash his usual routine. I can’t say he really does any acting.

The Longest Yard just seems like a backyard barbecue where all sorts of semi-famous personalities are invited, like Michael Irvin, Nelly, Tracy Morgan, Jim Rome, Chris “Boomer” Berman, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Brian Bosworth and many, many more. It's a bit like the Cannonball Run series, which Sandler is no doubt studying very intently right now, trying to figure out who'd be good for the Dom DeLuise role. (Sean Astin, call your agent!) The sole salvation of this film is in its football sequences; the on-field action serves as the life preserver for an otherwise drowning film. The collisions between the inmates and the guards are very enjoyable, as each inmate puts aside the team’s best interests to get a clean shot at a guard who's been harassing him. Is this simple physical comedy? Yes it is, and it works. I mean really, people! You already know the story. You know who will win. So what else is there but to watch incarcerated genetic mutants bash in the skulls of prison guards? Without this, there is no film.

Let us not forget Burt Reynolds, who lends his thespian skills to the proceedings here. (Ever since Boogie Nights, Burt’s been getting a little overly optimistic about his acting ability.) If his involvement with this film isn't proof that toupee glue affects the portion of the brain responsible for judgment, then such proof may never be discovered. Burt plays the grizzled Nate Scarboro, an aged inmate who takes to the guards-vs.-inmates battle and (of course) gets to put on the pads and hit the field. Burt played quarterback Paul Crewe in the first film, so is it not whacky to have him appear in the remake?!! Oh, Hollywood, what will you think of next? If this formula holds true, we can all look forward to Jean Claude Van Damme appearing in the remake of Cyborg in the year 2022. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Overall, The Longest Yard is just not unique enough to call any deserved attention to itself. It has it moments, but too few, and little beyond those to recommend it. If you refuse to embrace the physical comedy offered, you'll likely come away with little memory of this film other than the ticket stub that you’ll find in your shirt pocket the next time you do laundry.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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