Directed by Peter Segal
Written by Sheldon Turner
If you look in the encyclopedia under “Sequels, Unnecessary”, The Longest Yard would be one of the first examples because it is truly unnecessary. The 1974 Burt Reynolds film was a great entry into the football movie genre, but all these years later, there isn’t much to add or change to make it more current or to tell a new story. Instead, I believe the 2005 version simply exists as a vehicle for Adam Sandler and his cronies to make more money by taking a good movie and making a lazy remake of it. With a worldwide box office of close to $200 million, it worked. And I myself must admit that while watching it, seeing all the laziness and warts in the production, I was still won over by the film’s story, which is rooted in that original 1974 screenplay. It’s a far cry from that film, but not nearly as bad as is likely should be.
If you’ve seen the original, the plot hasn’t changed. Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler) is a washed up ex-star quarterback, who quickly declined after allegedly shaving points in a betting scandal. When he steals his girlfriend’s car and goes for a joyride, he lands himself in a Texas prison under a football crazed warden (James Cromwell), whose guards are recruited to play in a league he hopes to win the championship in. When the warden asks Crewe for advice, he suggests they play a tune-up game before the season, which prompts the warden to force Crewe to build a team of inmates to face the guards. After assembling a rag-tag team (Nelly, Chris Rock, Michael Irvin, Terry Crews), the inmates find motivation in the opportunity to stick it to the guards who have given them a hard time over many years.
It’d be super easy to sit here and rip this movie to shreds, as I’m sure many critics did upon its release. Adam Sandler feels like he’s totally phoning it in for this performance. He could be replaced by about a million other actors to the same effect. The story so closely resembles the original that it’s such an offensive cash grab. There are some glaring directorial choices which are quite amatuer. The use of “celebrity” cameos is cheap, as is much of the rest of the film. And yet, here I am, saying I somewhat enjoyed the experience. Perhaps I was in my happy mood for the day, but I was able to largely bury the glaring issues and remember how much I liked this story, and the football action that comes with it.
The “celebrity” cameos worked for me, mostly because I didn’t think Michael Irvin, Brian Bosworth, et al. were that bad of actors. They actually blended in quite nicely with the rest of the cast, although perhaps that an indictment on the rest of the cast and not a compliment to the non-actors. Even leaving the story exactly the same worked for me, although again, perhaps that safest of safe choices merely worked because making any changes would have easily revealed the hack filmmaking. Okay, okay, at this point this is probably the most negative positive review I’ve ever written, but it’s because I don’t fully understand why it is I like this garbage heap.
Well, I do understand. It’s because the story is as good as it is, and I guess I’m a sap for it. I liked watching Nelly running around like a magical athlete (and one with zero ball control, tuck that rock away man!). I liked watching Irvin’s Deacon Moss, well, Moss-ing the guards. Even some of the childish jokes worked for me, although that could be because I like way more Adam Sandler movies than most people. What’s bizarre is how insignificant Sandler himself is in the film. What a nothing performance in a movie that works in spite of the Paul Crewe character having no charisma, nothing to root for. Perhaps the genius stroke of bringing Burt Reynolds back as Nate Scarborough this time saves the film. Burt’s presence is everything over Sandler. Please don’t hate me.