THE LONGEST YARD (2005)
Starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, James Cromwell, Walter Williamson, Michael Irvin, Nelly, Edward Bunker, Lobo Sebastian, Bob Sapp, Dalip Singh, David Patrick Kelly, Terry Crews, Nicholas Turturro, Joey Diaz, Bill Goldberg, Steve Reevis, Cloris Leachman, William Fichtner, Bill Romanowski, Kevin Nash, Steve Austin, Brian Bosworth, Michael Papajohn, Brandon Molale, Todd Holland, Conrad Goode, Tracy Morgan, Ray Stoney, Patrick Bristow, Ed Lauter, Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, Rob Schneider, Tara Wilson, Mary Castro and Courtney Cox Arquette.
Screenplay by Sheldon Turner.
Directed by Peter Segal.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 114 minutes. Rated PG-13.
This is not quite as much of a travesty as The Stepford Wives, last year’s defanging of another respected 70s cult comedy. However, it’s on the same general playing field. The Longest Yard takes a smart, mouthy, hard-edged and genuinely funny story about a bunch of down-trodden prison inmates who get the opportunity to play a game against the brutal guards and turns the whole idea to tapioca.
The whole problem with the film can be summed up with one sentence. That sentence is simply this: The role originated by Burt Reynolds has now been taken on by Adam Sandler. It’s not quite as bad as if someone remade Casablanca with Pauly Shore or if Jim Carrey was tapped as Hamlet, but it still a miscasting of such staggering proportions that it makes the head spin.
Adam Sandler – an actor with the dramatic gravitas of Bozo – couldn’t be taken seriously as a professional quarterback even if he was physically the type, which of course he isn’t. I don’t think I’d buy Sandler as a kicker, but he certainly couldn’t be a quarterback.
So instead of creating a role, Sandler does his normal, mumbly, soft-spoken schtick – which is the exact opposite of what this role calls for. Instead of playing a selfish loose cannon who can never be totally trusted, the role is now played as a simple-minded, goofy, but basically good-hearted and dependable galoot.
Instead of even trying to play a role, Sandler just trades riffs with Chris Rock, a brilliant stand-up comedian who also cannot make a good film if his life depended on it. After this and Rock’s desecration of the 1978 Warren Beatty comedy Heaven Can Wait with his horrible remake Down To Earth, I think it is about time that the world at large insists that Rock give back his Blockbuster membership card.
In a sad piece of movie symmetry, Burt Reynolds is back and demoted to play the older mentor (portrayed by Michael Conrad in the original) who helps to put together the team. (Oddly, Ed Lauter was also brought back from the original cast to do a cameo. Has anyone really been missing Ed Lauter?) Reynolds gives it the old college try – he is the only person here who actually plays a role – but still you can’t help but feel sorry for the former superstar about how far his star has fallen.
The only other legit actor here is James Cromwell; however, his character of the warden has been defanged like everyone else in the movie. In the original, Eddie Albert plays the role of the Warden with menace and a real sense of power-madness; as written now, Cromwell has to play the same role as an incompetent boob. This whole juicy subplot has been completely sandbagged by the filmmakers who are afraid to give their story too many levels. Instead of taking a hardened look at the dark corners of the prison system, this new jail seems like a funhouse version – we’re doing time in Martha Stewart’s Camp Cupcake here. Problem is, without the festering bad feelings between the guards and the convicts, the game is just another game.
The Longest Yard seems like a strange choice of film to remake anyway, especially considering that a British soccer version of the film called Mean Machine was out just a few years ago. The new version is an odd mixture – it is very faithful to the storyline of the original and at the same time completely dismissive of the film’s tone and point-of-view. The producers of this new version probably will say that the audience that is going to see The Longest Yard most likely have never seen the original film, so it’s all new to them. They may be right about that, but I hate that the fact was used as an excuse to not even try to keep up. (5/05)
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 27, 2005.