The Longest Yard (5/10)

by Tony Medley

This film starts off weak, with Courtney Cox Arquette as Lena flashing her breasts all over the place in order to set up the idea of Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler) a former NFL quarterback doing something that sends him to jail. That “something” is to drive drunken through the streets, drinking while he’s driving, and ending up with an absurd traffic accident that destroys at least six cars, but injures no one.

Drunk driving is no joke. One of the movies I hated the most in my life was “Arthur” (1981) a despicable movie about a “lovable” drunk (Dudley Moore) who ended up a lovable drunk but none the worse for wear. Maybe this is where the irresponsibility of Hollywood started. Alcoholism is no joke, but this movie treated it as such. Drunk driving is no joke, but “The Longest Yard” treats it as such. Shame on Director Paul Segal, Writer Sheldon Turner, and the producers, for such a disgraceful basis for a plot device. But, then, the Executive Producer is Van Toffler who is MTV Networks Group president, responsible for all of MTV Networks’ music services, so what can you expect? Certainly not morality.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t get much better. I will say that whoever is responsible for the trailer did a terrific job because I wanted to see it after viewing the trailer. Alas, the trailer shows all the best lines.

This is a remake of a remarkably unfunny 1974 film starring Burt Reynolds that made quite a bit of money, showing the inmates playing a football game against the guards. I like football and I love comedy and I liked Reynolds, but I found the original extraordinarily thin. So if a remake should be in the same mold as the original, this one hits the mark.

Last year Paramount tried to remake “Alfie,” a 1966 mediocrity and came up far short. If that was strike 1, this is strike 2, but Sherry Lansing is no longer there to chalk this one up against her, although the film was undoubtedly given the green light while she was still in charge.

Sandler mumbles his way through this as he has in every other film he’s made. I thought that Chris Rock would be a funny addition. And he is OK, but nothing to spend all the money required to gain admission to this.

For a film with such a flimsy plot, it still lasts almost two hours (113 minutes). It takes more than the first hour to set up the game pitting the inmates against the guards. That’s when we see Rock and all the others. There are some names from the past in the cast, like Brian Bosworth, who plays Guard Garner. Bosworth was an All-American at the University of Oklahoma, a two-time winner of the Butkus Award as college football’s outstanding linebacker. But when he started playing against men in the NFL the main image I have of him is being pushed back into the end zone by much smaller running backs. Bosworth dropped off the NFL world, never to be seen again, until he discovered Hollywood. Bosworth was a prime candidate for Hollywood because he was clearly acting when he was appearing in the NFL as a football player. He looks pretty tough against guys like Adam Sandler.

Also appearing is Bill Romanowski, who was a real football player, and, unlike Bosworth, tough and rough as nails, giving as good as he got in 16 NFL seasons.

Reynolds appears as Nate Scarborough, who coaches Crewe and the cons. He adds virtually nothing. The years have not been kind to Burt. He’s lost his humor and his edge.

One person who does give a good performance in the film is James Cromwell, who plays the evil Warden Hazen. He captures his character and is believably hateful.

The vacuous filmmakers add five or six gay cheerleaders for the cons. These scenes are not funny, so they fit in well with the rest of the film, which flunks both the watch test and the laugh test.

May 24, 2005