a critiQal film review The Longest Yard (2005)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: When former NFL player Paul Crewe (Sandler) is sent to prison, the warden (Cromwell) forces him to transform a diverse group of inmates into a football team. Unlikely teammates, the convicts unite when they find out who they are playing: the guards. With the help of fellow inmates Nate Scarborough (Reynolds) and Caretaker (Rock), Crewe promises the cons a chance to exact revenge in a bone-crushing showdown where anything goes.

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  • ...Burt Reynolds, Chris Rock and the rest make the movie funny almost in spite of a miscast Sandler.

After Punch-Drunk Love (2002), there was a slight possibility that Adam Sandler had finally separated himself from his comedy roots and taken a new step in his acting career by going for more dramatic pieces. And then there was 50 First Dates (2003) – and Adam Sandler jumped right back into his normal comedy routines. Not surprisingly, people flocked to that film, as well as his latest comedy film, The Longest Yard.

Since Heather and I are both Sandler fans, despite idiotic films like The Waterboy and Little Nicky, we knew we were going to have to check out The Longest Yard when it hit DVD.

Our first try, however, yielded nothing, as (unsurprisingly) our local Blockbuster® had been cleaned out (which is the same reason we haven’t been able to see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) as of yet). On our 2nd try, we lucked into a copy of The Longest Yard, and immediately rushed home to check it out. After the seriousness of Punch-Drunk Love (2002), would Sandler be able to entertain as he used to in comedy (without any help from old pal Drew Barrymore), or have Sandler’s best comedic days already passed him by?

Having already played a football player once (in The Waterboy), one would think he would be a great match to play another. Unfortunately (at least for this reviewer), that just isn’t the case. He doesn’t really seem to fit the role that well.

On top of that, The Longest Yard puts him through a lot of things we’ve never seen from Adam Sandler before – trying to make him out to be a tough guy. Sorry, but that’s not Adam Sandler. He can play the moron or loser role perfectly, but when he steps away from those roles, he tends to falter.

That’s not to say he doesn’t do his best in The Longest Yard – it’s just that the role is ill-suited for him. The viewer will spend most of his scenes trying to overlap the idea of the Adam Sandler they know with this new bad boy image, and totally miss some of the other characters in the film that make it really worthwhile.

With all the problems the viewer will have trying to wrap their minds around Sandler’s character, they will really need other actors to step up and guide them through The Longest Yard. And that’s just what Chris Rock and Burt Reynolds do. They are the true stars of this film, carrying it through (despite Sandler) to a great finish. They both really step up their games, acting-wise, evoking more hilarity and wit with their characters than we’ve seen from them in a long time.

The other characters, like Nelly, NFL stars (including Brian Bosworth and Michael Irvin), WWE stars “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg and Kevin Nash, and William Fichtner (to name a few) really step in as well, each bringing more out of their characters than the viewer would have thought possible.

The Longest Yard pits prison guards against inmates in a game of football. This is the perfect movie for everyone who has ever rooted for the underdog – after all, how much lower can your life get if you’re spending the rest of it behind bars? Of course, the underdogs are put in the best possible light, and the guards are depicted as the bad guys. It’s a neat trick, but with The Longest Yard focusing more on the emotions of the inmates rather than their crimes, and depicting the guards randomly beating and harassing the inmates seemingly for the fun of it, the filmmakers are able to shift the viewer’s perspective.

Having said that, The Longest Yard is, at it’s heart, a football film. Everything else is filler. Sure, it’s entertaining filler, but that’s still all it is. The real meat of the film is in the game itself, and The Longest Yard concentrates most of it’s effort on making the game the best part of the film.

While the game does go on just a bit too long, the filmmakers do an excellent job of stuffing that section full of high emotions, big plot twists – and the actors, Sandler included, really shine their brightest. This is where The Longest Yard really hits it stride. If the game itself had been less exciting, it would have brought the whole film down by association. At this point, the viewer will forget how odd the previous scenes have been for Sandler, because this part is obviously what attracted Sandler to the role in the first place. Sandler and crew really showcase their best here – and it’s worth waiting for.

So if you’re a fan of prior feel-good football comedies like Necessary Roughness (1991), you may be thinking of renting The Longest Yard. Go right ahead. The game itself makes up for any disappointments you may have prior to that section of the film, and really ends the film on a high note.

That’s not to say the rest of The Longest Yard stinks – it doesn’t. Burt Reynolds, Chris Rock and the rest of the actors help you get over the seemingly miscast Sandler, and make the movie funny almost in spite of him.

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