The Longest Yard
With the antics of Adam Sandler and Chris Rock all wrapped up in a neat little underdogs-crunch-bones-and-take-all package, it's pretty much a win-win situation for The Longest Yard--even at its silliest moments.
Former NFL star quarterback Paul Crewe (Sandler) doesn't really like himself much these days. Unproven accusations of points shaving have sent Crewe into a downward spiral of drunkenness and self-destructive behavior. It all comes to a very bad end one night when he takes a wild joyride in his girlfriend's Bentley, with cops in pursuit. Crewe is sent to a Texas penitentiary, where he figures he'll just quietly ride out his time in hopes of leaving a changed man. The sadistic warden (James Cromwell), however, has other plans for Crewe. He forces the quarterback to transform a diverse group of inmates into a football team so that they can play his elite semi-pro team of guards. You know, to make the guards look good when they crush the convicts. What the warden doesn't expect is how far Crewe--with the help of fellow inmates Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds) and Caretaker (Rock)--takes his task. He recruits his unlikely but somewhat talented teammates with the promise that they'll get a chance to exact revenge on the guards during anything-goes bone-crushing showdown. This is Crewe's one chance to redeem himself. Can he do it? You can do it, Paul!
Seems like when Adam Sandler puts his mind to it, he really can't lose. And The Longest Yard proves to another perfect Sandler vehicle. As Paul Crewe, the comedian returns to his sports roots (Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy) and basically plays the same unassuming, slightly sardonic straight man. Crewe, though, is perhaps a little less angry and more resigned about his circumstances. Sandler also displays a fairly convincing flair for quarterbacking. The thing is, Sandler doesn't need to stretch to be successful. He tried it in Punch-Drunk Love--and actually pulled it off quite nicely, I might add--but if he's making billions of dollars playing himself, why mess with a good thing? It's who he surrounds himself with that counts. Reynolds, who played Crewe in the 1974 original, looks like he's just as pleased as punch to be there as he relive some glory days as the grizzled coach Scarborough. He even gets in a little playing time on the field. What fun for him. The always-hysterical Rock complements his longtime SNL pal to a tee, and with his petite frame next to all these hulking men, naturally delivers all the funniest lines (''I'll teach you anything, just don't eat me!''). Hip-hopper Nelly, in his acting debut, brings a certain MTV quality to the proceedings (and has a few songs on the soundtrack). And as far as the rest of the cast of ex-football players and professional wrestlers, well, they are there for a reason.
The 1974 The Longest Yard is apparently one of Sandler's favorite films, and it's easy to see why. First of all, it has Burt Reynolds, who is so cool as the beleaguered Crewe. Then there's the classic underdog theme, in which the good guys are actually bad guys--they are all convicted felons--but who we see systematically beat down by the ''Man.'' You want them to thrash the holy crap out of those mean and nasty guards. I mean, cons are people, too, right? Plus, there are some great football sequences. So, Sandler, along with his Happy Madison Productions, decides to pay homage, assembles another crack team--including director Peter Segal, who worked with Sandler on 50 First Dates and Anger Management--and produces a very worthy remake. They stay close to the original material--comedy tinged with sentiment--but, of course, can't help but add the requisite Sandler-isms. Those over-the-top ''isms''--the bathroom humor, the lame prison-sex jokes, Rob Schneider yelling ''You can do it!'' et al.--is what all die-hard Sandler fans want to see, so I guess it's expected. It's just not my cup of tea.
When Adam Sandler throws a long hilarious, no-brainer comedy of a pass into the end zone, you know we are going to be there to catch it.