The Longest Yard
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Peter Segal
scr Sheldon Turner
with Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, James Cromwell, William Fichtner, Cloris Leachman, Nelly, David Patrick Kelly, Bob Sapp,Terry Crews, Nicholas Turturro, Courteney Cox
release US 27.May.05, UK 9.Sep.05
05/US Paramount-Columbia 1h53

Stunt casting: Reynolds, Rock and Sandler

cromwell fichtner leachman


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The Longest Yard It can't be that difficult to brainstorm an idea for an Adam Sandler movie. Honestly. So quite why they felt the urge to remake this 1974 prison football romp is anyone's guess (the last version was 2001's awful Mean Machine). The result is almost watchable, but completely unnecessary.

Paul (Sandler) is a disgraced American football player sentenced to three years in a Texas prison, where the warden (Cromwell) indulges in a football obsession and coerces Paul to put together a team of inmates to play against his guards, who are all former players themselves. But Paul is a more formidable opponent than expected, working with the cell-block go-getter (Rock), another former pro (Reynolds) and a tough, rag-tag team to hit the warden where it hurts.

The cast is fine; they're not the problem. They dive in and play it relatively straight, which is a relief since the dialog and situations are all so ludicrous. Sandler doesn't have much to do--anyone could play this role. Rock's character is just as bland, livened up only by his improvised riffs and some strong (underused) chemistry with Sandler. The characters are all stereotypes with nowhere to go. And most of them are cliches the actors have performed before. Only Leachman seems to have any fun, in the slutty secretary role.

Segal at least directs it competently--the film looks fine, but he never even tries to make something out of this thin material. In fact, he indulges in a nasty stream of sexist and homophobic humour that's ignorant, thuggish and extremely offensive. And the story structure won't help its prospects outside America; about half of the running time is taken up with the climactic football game. If you know the rules, then there are lots of clever twists and jokes--easily the most inventive thing about the film. But the 95 percent of the planet that doesn't play American football won't get any of this; they'll be inflicted with almost an hour of head-bashing chaos, an indulgence in any film, and a clear sign that there's absolutely nothing here at all.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, innuendo 27.Jul.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall