Adam Sandler’s The Longest Yard may not have an original bone in its battered body but it does have one defining quality – it refuses to fit into the tidy pigeonholes his movies have easily fallen into over the years, namely, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. This isn’t niche, art-house Sandler, nor is it the crowd-pleasing characterisation of some manic moron in a way only the aforementioned actor can produce. Yet the film is too middle-of-the-road, too played by numbers to be bad, and its moments of stylish, slo-mo action-sports heroics and outlandish comedic improvisations, make it far from ugly. But is it any good? That depends on your affinity to Sandler himself, your take on the original Burt Reynolds movie, and a basic tolerance for two-hour long MTV music videos. Basically, Mr Happy Gilmore is far from his best, and director Peter Segal languishes in that mediocre land he so loves but The Longest Yard is mainstream comedy at its most easily attainable. It has the prison stereotypes, the homosexual innuendo, fat jokes, cameos, pop-music and that all important final sports movie clich. Yet for a film about inmates wanting to rip out the hearts of the guards that terrorise them, at least it has the essential organ in the right place.
Failed football star Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler) is sent to a Texas prison after stealing his girlfriend’s car. There he meets an unscrupulous warden (James Cromwell) who forces him into coaching an inmate football team to serve as guinea pigs for a warm-up match with the guards. Teaming with Caretaker (Chris Rock), a man that can seemingly get him anything he wants, and long-serving, football genius Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds), they together conspire to embarrass the guards on the pitch.
The biggest criticism The Longest Yard deserves is that for an Adam Sandler film, such a moniker seems unfair given the actor appears to be on autopilot. The film is undistinguished simply because Sandler fails to distinguish himself. The mishmash of idiosyncrasies from his characters in Bulletproof and Billy Madison coming through only at a diluted level, and the actor looks far less interested to push the material than he did in Punch-Drunk Love and The Wedding Singer. Of course, it would be unfair to blame him wholly, since the script and direction are nowhere near as good as the subtle nostalgia and bittersweet romance of Singer, nor the distant tragedy of Love. Yet he has brought bad material from dark depths before, but here he doesn’t seem capable.
It would be unfair, however, to brandish the film a failure since comparisons with the 1974 original are fruitless, and it is far more entertaining than the previous Sandler/Segal collaboration on 50 First Dates. This is TV dinner moviemaking, thrown into the microwave for three minutes coming out ready to eat. Segal keeps the pace moving with the red carpet introduction of far too many cameos, and plenty of on-cue pop music so the tie-in movie soundtrack definitely sells. He utilises a cartoon-like, dastardly entertaining plot ideal that pitches the ‘good’ inmates versus the ‘bad’ guards, which works surprisingly well.
Of course, when Sandler hits with his inherent comedic traits they are as enticing to watch as ever. When he gets pulled over by police one of the cop’s, who has notably large ears, tells him ‘shit happens’ to which Sandler replies: ‘Shit does happen, look what happened to your ears!’ The way in which he lays into the police officer (‘does he get AM radio with those’, ‘Santa Claus – what’s he like?’) is delivered with that sardonic, dry wit he does so well, and after eventually crashing the car when a police chase ends he quips: ‘Good news boys, at least I didn’t spill my beer!’ there’s a sense that at the very least, The Longest Yard is enjoyably amusing.
If anything, Peter Segal seems to produce movies with the idea that if it isn’t broken don’t fix it, therefore, what we find are all the clichs in their rightful places. But it isn’t necessarily a bad thing since Segal targets his humour with a play on the stereotypes and a wry wink to commercialism and pop-culture. One con has a craving for McDonalds for instance, while the secluded Turley (a hybrid of Frankenstein and Hannibal Lector) is tamed with a relaxing game of table tennis, his menace turned on its head since he’s quite an unnerving foe for the guards on the field. For all its misfires and bad-plays, it’s the sort of bite-size comedy that goes down easily, and given its star-cast attractiveness, the Hollywood bigwigs who funded this remake will feel comfortable that their penthouses and Bentley’s will be financed for another year.
Review of The Longest Yard on Region 2 DVD
The Longest Yard is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and anamorphic enhanced. The film’s vibrant colours and sun-drenched desert settings are beautifully rendered on the DVD, providing a warm and satisfying glow that creates the film’s summer setting perfectly. However, the film suffers from noticeable edge-enhancement which becomes quite obvious during the outdoor scenes.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is excellent providing superb separation across the speakers allowing the dialogue to be clear and well-directed, whilst the action scenes and music soundtrack pound the speakers with the sort of aggression seen on the football field.
There’s plenty of additional features to get your teeth into on the DVD, it’s just a shame they’re all about as interesting as – for want of a better clich – watching paint dry. No commentary is provided by either the director or Adam Sandler and that’s a pity since Sandler has done some enjoyable ones in the past. The making-of is the first feature on the disc entitled First Down and Twenty Five to Life and focuses on director Peter Segal who engagingly talks about the film’s production, in particularl Adam Sandler and Burt Reynolds’ roles, and the awful weather the crew had to endure. It’s a slickly made piece lasting approximately twenty minutes and lacking pretension, but it’s thin material at best, made for promotion rather than information. The Care and Feeding of a Pro Athlete is somewhat interesting in that it focuses on the catering of the film, something of a largely ignored quantity on a movie set. Lights, Camera, Touchdown focuses on how the football sequences were shot. Again it is slickly shot but it doesn’t peak the interest level. Extra Points is split up into five separate sections and introduced by director Peter Segal. It is a special-effects feature that looks at how some of the sequences were shot for the film and does provide some interesting pieces of information but is ultimately too short. 9 deleted scenes are available to view on the disc with or without commentary from the director, some of which are alternate takes and some are extended versions. There’s also a Nelly music video (I’m not a fan of Nelly or his style of music, so you can guess what I thought of this), and a worthless montage of footage from the film entitled Here Comes The Boom. Finally Fumbles and Stumbles is a montage of bloopers which, given the pedigree of Sandler and Chris Rock, isn’t very funny.
Overview of film and DVD
The Longest Yard is another remake and another American football movie. In a sense it’s lost the battle before it set foot on the pitch but it does have its redeeming features. One, if you like American football movies that don’t take themselves seriously and are at times genuinely funny, you can’t go wrong with this one. Two, it’s a remake – so what! Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to see Hollywood trying to be at least somewhat original. But for the time being I’ll just sit back and relax watching what mindless comedy they churn out keeping that all important point preserved in my mind – ‘I still enjoy this stuff!’ The DVD has plenty of extra features but they are superfluous at best, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is nothing less than superb.