Screen Jeers: ‘The Longest Yard’

Dan: Sports are near and dear to my heart, and I can appreciate a good sports movie. I can also get really irritated by a good sports movie remade into an Adam Sandler, MTV mess of a film. “The Longest Yard,” one of the staples in sport movie lore, was modernized in 2005 and transformed into a noisy, grating comedy without any funny jokes. It follows the misadventures of Paul Crewe (Sandler), a former NFL MVP quarterback who gets sent to prison after his life falls apart after his playing days are over. He gets roped into building a football team of convicts to play against the guards’ semi-pro team, and hijinks and team-building ensue. After a strong first half, the warden orders Crewe to throw the game after halftime, and after initially complying, Crewe turns the tables and ends up leading the team to victory.

It’s a strong story with some pretty heavy undertones … when it can be taken seriously. Or when the convicts are likable characters. Or when the movie isn’t overwhelmed by cliches and product placement. Caryn, what would you say was the most irritating part of this movie?

Caryn: Sports movies are NOT near and dear to my heart. The only sports movie I think I’ve ever liked was when we watched “Moneyball” that one time. That was okay, I guess.

I’ve seen “Friday Night Lights,” “Hoosiers” and “Rudy” and I’ve found them all terrible. They’re all supposed to have some sort of heartwarming message about teamwork or the underdog getting ahead. You don’t need two hours to weave a giant cliche.

But the underdog-defeating-all-odds story isn’t what annoyed me the most about “The Longest Yard.” I was mostly annoyed by the product placement, which was so pervasive it was in the dialogue. The actors could be heard saying things such as “quarter pounder with cheese” and “McNuggets,” even though the conversation had nothing to do with food. I’m guessing McDonald’s paid the most to have its products displayed in the movie because it was everywhere. And a big deal was made out of an underground McDonald’s smuggling operation in the prison.

One or two ads displayed here and there is okay. I get it, Adam Sandler wanted me to be hungry for McDonald’s after watching “The Longest Yard,” But he didn’t need to make a brand an entire sub-plot in the movie.

What annoyed you the most?

Dan: Far and away, the worst part of this movie is the humor. The original had plenty of comedic moments, but it was still a serious movie that was trying to tell a story. The remake’s only goal was to put butts in theater seats and sell DVDs. It tried to recreate and reimagine some of the jokes used in the original, but each time, the rehash was less funny. Most of the jokes are racist, homophobic or just plain dumb. They aren’t charming, and they don’t make for good entertainment.

A big reason for this is the fact that the audience doesn’t care one bit about the characters. The original took its time in building relationships with Crewe and Caretaker, Scarboro and the rest of the inmates. It let the audience determine for itself that the warden was a sleazebag and the guards needed to be taken down a notch by the Mean Machine. In the remake, Chris Rock sits down with Adam Sandler and suddenly they’re BFFs. The guards beat on Sandler and everyone for absolutely no reason than to tell the audience that they’re the bad guys. The warden is barely even a character. Then who cares whether he gets beaten?!

What about the football game itself? That was the only part of the remake that could compete with the original, whose only major fault is a disjointed final act (the big game doesn’t flow very well in the original, and they even mess up the scoring).

Caryn: The football game was pretty dumb. It had a lot of lackluster shots in slow motion, which were definitely unnecessary. I knew the Mean Machine was going to win at the end. Like all sports movies, when you know who is going to win, there’s no point in watching the 20 minutes of “game time.” I wasn’t on the edge of my seat with suspense, and once I found out who won, I didn’t want to watch the movie again.

Dan, since you’re a fan of all things sport-related, what would you watch instead of “The Longest Yard?”

Dan: I recommend “The Longest Yard”: You know, the original with Burt Reynolds as Paul Crewe. His performance is infinitely better than Sandler’s, not the least because Reynolds himself was recruited by Florida State during his heyday. Hate to break it to you, Sandler, but I never for one millisecond believed that you could have been a one-time NFL MVP. However, I did enjoy Sandler’s other football comedy, “The Waterboy,” so maybe you’d want to watch that, instead. Really, any sports movie aside from this iteration of “The Longest Yard” would be preferable.

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