|Longest Yard, The (2005)|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 20 September 2005|
A not very faithful rendition of the original, “The Longest Yard” really doesn’t give any semblance of feeling that these players are trapped in a prison. Though the guards are mean, where the inmates practice makes it look like anyone can escape with a little bit of planning. The funniest thing about this is that director Peter Segal and the production designers comment on how fierce and tough the prison looks. But come on, what was anyone expecting? This is not a commentary about society or prisons or even football, it is a testosterone-filled foray into hard-hitting football comedy.
The film begins with embattled former NFL MVP quarterback Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler) wrecking his girlfriend’s car on television and subsequently being sentenced to a three-year jail term for drunk and reckless driving. Crewe is taken to Allenville Prison in Texas, where he has, in essence, been recruited by the warden (James Cromwell). The prison has a semi-pro football team and the warden wants Crewe as its advisor. Crewe’s first and only real suggestion is that the team play a warm-up game against a lesser opponent. The warden suggests a team composed of inmates, but Crewe balks at this, not wanting to have anything to do with football or his fellow convicts. Eventually, realizing he is stuck between the warden and the ruthless quarterback of the guard’s team, Captain Knauer (William Fichtner), Crewe agrees to put a team together.
Initially reviled by the other inmates, Crewe makes friends with Caretaker (Chris Rock), a wisecracking jack of all trades. After some initial struggles recruiting players, the team eventually consists of a variety of hardened and violent criminals, intent on exacting revenge on the guards. Both the guards and inmates are looking forward to playing each other, the guards so they can beat the inmates at football, and the inmates so they can beat up the guards. Among those portraying guards are wrestler Steve Austin and former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski; among those essaying inmates are rapper Nelly, former NFL receiver Michael Irvin, wrestler Bill Goldberg and, as the “coach,” original “The Longest Yard” star Burt Reynolds, who has a sizable role as another inmate who was once a Heisman Trophy winner.
The title “The Longest Yard” is supposed to symbolize the final play of the game, as well as the lives of the inmates, but it is glossed over here to make room for lots of loud noise, music, grunts, groans and football mayhem. Produced with the sort of bright and loud flair that has become known as the “Bruckheimer Style,” the film does little to try and make sense of anything or anyone. It is a sometimes fun football romp where there are more athletes than actors in it and the final result is obvious. Suspension of disbelief is necessary to understand just how these criminals all end up being so peaceful with one another. They never actually seem to be dangerous to anyone, except for their massive bulk and ability to lift heavy weights. As noted above, the prison itself doesn’t even seem very secure, though most of the film was shot at an old Texas state prison. Sandler is his usual self and I must say that both Nelly and Irvin do stand-up jobs in their first acting roles. My question is, what are serious actors like Cromwell and Fichtner doing in this movie? The football stuff must have been fun for the latter, but I can’t really understand the former. I guess it’s a paycheck.
This DVD is virtually bursting at the seams with extras: “First Down and 25 to Life” is a decent featurette about the making of the film. It is over 20 minutes in length and covers many aspects of preproduction, including the casting, set design and a few other elements. “The Care and Feeding of Pro Athletes” is a short bit about the catering and just how much food was consumed on set by the various huge guys in the movie. It’s rare to see any attention paid to the caterers, and in this case it is amazing to see just how much food was eaten by the actors, to say nothing of the crew. “Lights, Camera, Touchdown!” discusses how they made the football scenes work, including training, special effects, getting Sandler to throw a perfect spiral, aspects of sports filming and just how they made those vicious hits look so real. Each one of these featurettes is fairly substantial and does an effective job of revealing interesting aspects of production.
“Extra Points” shows five different short scenes where special effects were used. Though there is little depth to the clips, director Segal does a short commentary for each. He starts out by saying that he’s going to explain how each special effect was created, but really does little more than briefly describe what it is we’re seeing. The deleted/extended scenes work better with the commentary by Segal, as he explains why each scene was cut and what they had originally hoped to accomplish with them. There are also two music videos, one an actual video by Nelly and the other a compilation of footage from the movie cut to music. The “Fumbles and Stumbles” area contains bloopers and other candid moments from the production.
This is a technically sound movie in all aspects: the transfer is crisp and bright and the sound is loud and mixed exceedingly well, though it at times is forced and over the top. But hey, it’s a football comedy, so what do you expect? The biggest complaint I have is that there is no feature commentary. Considering Sandler and Rock are in the movie, it would have been great to get these two funnymen into a sound booth to talk about the production. Also missing is either commentary by or an exclusive interview with Burt Reynolds or any other mention of the original film. I guess they wanted to put as much distance as possible between the two versions.
Football fans and those who enjoy a goofy Adam Sandler movie will no doubt enjoy this remake of “The Longest Yard.” It’s tough to say whether fans of the original will like it, but it is safe to say that anyone who likes art house films better just skip on by.