September 18, 2005 -- “The Longest Yard” is almost an exact remake of the 1974 film of the same name. There have been a few minor changes to the script. It has been dumbed down and some of the language and sex have been cleaned up to appeal more to juveniles. The original film, starring Burt Reynolds (who also appears in the sequel), was an adult film, rated R. The remake is a kiddie film, rated PG-13. The original, while no classic, was an enjoyable film. This sloppy second edition is worse in all respects. It seems to have been thrown together carelessly.
Adam Sandler stars as ex-football star Paul Crewe (the part played by Reynolds in the original film). He is transferred to Allenville, a remote Texas prison, through the influence of football-crazed warden Hazen (James Cromwell of “Star Trek: First Contact”). Hazen, who has political ambitions, wants Crewe to coach his team of prison guards. Crewe persuades Hazen to sanction a game between the guards and prisoners as a tune-up game for the guards regular season games. Crew is joined by the wisecracking prisoner Caretaker (Chris Rock of “Head of State”) who becomes team manager and Crew's top recruiter. After a lot of false starts, the two finally manage to convince the most athletic convicts to join the football squad with the promise that the prisoners will be able to hit back at the sadistic guards, led by Captain Knauer (played by William Fichtner of “Crash.” In the original film, Ed Lauter played this part. Lauter also appears in the sequel.) Crew and Caretaker are joined by football legend Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds) who takes over coaching duties.
Much of the plot centers around the rumor that Crewe once shaved points in a professional football game in order to pay off a gambling debt. This is considered worse than many other crimes by the convicts, and Crewe is ostracized because of it. Somehow this plot point doesn't seem as convincing as it did 30 years ago. Does anyone think professional football, or even college football is really legitimate anymore? With the steroid scandals and billions of dollars in illegal betting riding on every game, does anyone think these games are not fixed? The whole idea that fixing a game is worse than rape, murder, child molesting or other violent crimes seems harder than ever to accept.
One bright spot in this mediocre movie is Chris Rock. His humor helps brighten things up quite a bit. It is too bad his role in the film is limited. Cloris Leachman, who plays the warden's kinky secretary, Lynette Reynolds, is also very funny. William Fichtner does a good job playing the sadistic, controlling Captain Knauer and James Cromwell is convincing as the sleazy warden. Burt Reynolds is as good as ever playing the old school football player. There are several real football players in the film, including Bill Romanowski, Brian Bosworth, Terry Crews, Michael Irvin and others. Wrestlers Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Bill Goldberg and Dalip Singh are among the other athletes playing football in the film. The football scenes are well-staged, and some of that old formula from the first film still works, but the rest of the film is a letdown. It rates a C.
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