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The Longest Yard

  The Longest Yard
"Nelly, it's a football game,
not a Michael Jackson concert."

© 2005, Paramount Pictures
All Rights Reserved

After totaling his sugar-momma's (Courtney Cox) car on purpose, disgraced former football player Paul "Wrecking" Crewe (Adam Sandler) is sent to a Texas prison, where an evil warden (James Cromwell) has brought him in to coach an inmate football team that will serve to warm up a prison guard team for the season. Faced with training a ragtag bunch of cons that couldn't care less, Crewe finds help in a friendly smuggler (Chris Rock) and an old-timer (Burt Reynolds) who would like nothing more than to see the warden lose face in public.

"The Longest Yard" (IMDb listing) was a 1974 feature that launched Burt Reynolds into the celebrity stratosphere, along with being one of the finest football films ever made. Thirty years later, an unexpected actor has stepped into Reynolds's iconic macho role: Adam Sandler. Faced with a huge cinematic challenge of emulating a classic film, Sandler and his Happy Madison production team have turned up the comedy and the ferocity of the tackles for this boisterous, snappy remake.

Reuniting with his "50 First Dates" and "Anger Management" director Peter Segal, Sandler finds success once again under the eye of one of Hollywood's biggest hacks. Segal could never be mistaken for a thoughtful, nuanced filmmaker, and "Yard" solidifies this reputation with his display of some of the most aggressive mass-audience-pleasing direction seen in a film this year. "Yard" leaves nothing to the imagination; from the overblown sadism of the prison guards to broad pranks and revenge scenarios arranged by the cons, Segal and writer Sheldon Turner make sure every last audience member can get in on the fun. At times, this method of direction is maddening, especially since the 1974 film was such a dry, carefully measured piece of cinema. But it's hard to disagree with the energy Segal is creating by pitching this remake so broadly.

Stuffed with an abundance of fist-pumping rock and hip-hop anthems for every scene, a cast that comes in all shapes, colors, and clarity of speaking, and leading the way with Sandler's deliciously absurdist humor (one con has a McDonalds fetish, another cannot get enough of Joy Behar), the new "Yard" is a crowd pleaser, and not in a grotesque way. This formulaic film is created to get the blood pumping and the belly rolling, and it performs both jobs splendidly. Even when it occasionally becomes too hammy for words, or the "evil" performances cross into cartoon (James Cromwell, I'm looking at you), the film remains an overwhelmingly infectious experience, best served with a crowd of 500 clapping audience members, and a sound system that could wake the dead.

In what could've been an embarrassing turn, the original Paul Crewe, Burt Reynolds, steps back on the field to oversee this remake. His presence is soothing, with Segal giving the veteran actor plenty to do in the final reel. Sandler makes a terrific replacement for the role, finding himself in incredible shape, and oddly allowing himself to pass punchlines over to his fellow teammates. He's assembled a great cast of ex-football players (Brian Bosworth and a scene-stealing Terry Crews), comedians (a reliable Chris Rock and a skirt-wearing Tracey Morgan), and pro wrestlers (Bill Goldberg, Steve Austin, and Kevin Nash) to make up the two teams, and their skills at the game are showcased marvelously. Of course, those brutal hits are sweetened with tackling sound effects that resemble two semis colliding, but the intent remains clear and it's great fun to watch.

The new, straightforward redo of "The Longest Yard" doesn't quite stand as proudly at the 1974 version did. However, Adam Sandler and his cronies have turned this modest football tale into a larger sensory experience, and have made the film into something the original film could never be accused of being: hilariously, recklessly, and undeniably entertaining.

Filmfodder Grade: A-

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