When I told my mom I was going to go and see "The Longest Yard" she asked me who was in it. I mentioned Adam Sandler and Chris Rock and then mentioned that Burt Reynolds was also in it. Familiar with the 1974 original, she jokingly asked if Reynolds was going to play the `Coach' in the remake. I said I didn't think so, there was no indication of that in the trailer. After watching the film, I can report that my mother was right. She knew he would be playing the Coach because it is a clich and "The Longest Yard" is filled with cliches.
Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler), an ex-quarterback in the NFL convicted of point shaving, goes on a joyride in his girlfriend's (Courtney Cox - Arquette) Bentley. Crashing into a series of police cars, he violates his probation and is sent to Allenville Penitentiary in Texas. Upon arrival, the Warden (James Cromwell) wants Crewe to help his Guard's football team prepare for the new season. The Captain of the Guard (William Fichtner) warns him against participating. He doesn't want the convicts help. Caretaker (Chris Rock) befriends Crewe, who seems to be universally disliked due to the point shaving scandal. Together, they set about forming a team to play the guards, and events quickly escalate. Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds), a former Heismann Trophy winner, offers to help coach the team. Soon, the game attracts the attention of the national media and the Warden, who has designs on the Texas Governor's office, plays along.
Sandler's company is one of the producers of the film and Sandler is listed as an executive producer. My question is: Why? In his last few `comedies', Sandler has essentially become the straight man to other, funnier actors. In "Mr. Deeds", John Turturro stole the film. Granted, it wasn't difficult, but when you are a comedian, making $20 million per film, you should be funny. In "The Longest Yard", Sandler essentially hands the reigns to Rock, who is easily the funniest thing in the film. There are more scenes of Sandler being beaten up by prison guards, football players, basketball players, etc. than there are of any comedy.
Most of Rock's laughs are generated from comments he makes about other members of their ragtag football team. The other players are your basic tried and true stereotypes, stereotypes that you will recognize from any sports - themed or prison film. Because these characters are so tired and boring, his comedy is lacking.
You have: The old geezer who has seen all and knows all, the psychotic guy who can run fast, but also wants to kill everything, the big, lumbering lummox who won't talk to anyone until Crewe takes an extra moment or two to talk to him, the extremely overweight guy who just has to be on the team, if only to provide an excuse for fat jokes, the politically ambitious warden who thinks televising a game between his guards and convicts will be a good thing for his career, the guard with a `heart of gold' who eventually sees the light. There is also a group of transvestites (led by Tracy Morgan of "Saturday Night Live") who dress up in cheerleader's outfits for the big game. Yawn. Double yawn.
If the filmmakers had managed to do anything, anything at all, original with the story or the characters, the movie would be a little more enjoyable. Let's face it, if you are going to see a sports-themed film, in all likelihood, the underdog is going to win. I can think of only two instances where this was not the case. The reason the underdog always wins? To help create suspense. But since we know the underdog will always win, how much suspense does this type of story create? Zero. What else is there? No suspense. Dumb characters. Predictable story. Hmmmm. Nothing. There is nothing else.
I think the filmmakers realized this as well. During the football scenes, they seem determined to show some sort of visual style. What this means is that every time someone makes a catch or tackles someone, the action will slow down, then at the point of impact, stop, and then start moving again. Actually, this in of itself, is a clich. We have seen this technique used in a number of films, music videos, commercials, the like. They use another technique of splitting the screen into various different images, so we can `follow the action'. This might have been interesting except more then one of these images is blurry and sort of calls into question the whole technique. Why do we need to see a blurry image when five other things are going on at the same time? We don't.
The film is also filled with a number of unbelievable things. Sandler as a quarterback? At one point, Reynold's character calls Crewe a natural athlete, just before he starts playing basketball. Adam Sandler? Also, how does someone living in San Diego get sent to prison in Texas, especially when they are simply serving the remaining three years of a sentence? This doesn't seem realistic. Granted, many comedies are unrealistic in many ways, but it helps if they have some grounding in the real world. It makes the comedy more memorable if we think these situations, characters, etc. have some basis in reality. Nothing in "The Longest Yard" has a basis in reality.
"The Longest Yard" will probably find an audience, but hopefully it won't be any of you.