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THE LONGEST YARD

2005, dir. Peter Segal
113 min., Rated PG-13.
Starring: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, Farmer Hoggett, Nelly

Review by Justin Patterson

Before I went on vacation about two weeks ago, my wife and I decided that we needed a night AWAY from the house. She's the daughter of a former NFL quarterback and I'm just a movie freak, so we decided to check out the recent remake of The Longest Yard. I'd seen a preview at Revenge of the Sith, so I knew that it looked to at least be amusing.

Is a donkey and a mule the same thing? I'm Brian Fellow!

I wasn't wrong. It was amusing. While it completely lacks any depth of character development, has stock characters who act in a manner so predictable it might as well be an ABC after school special and is somewhat predictable because (here's a shocker!) it's a REMAKE. As Noel might put it, it's a good popcorn movie.

Here's the idea. Adam Sandler plays a washed-up former NFL quarterback who was drummed out of the game for allegedly throwing a game. He has largely given up on life and is living as the pet of a bitchy socialite played by Courtney Cox. When he blows his top at her, steals her Bentley and manages to get a bunch of police after him, he gets tossed into jail. Not just any jail, mind you - Football Jail. See, James Cromwell is the warden of a prison that has a really good football team made of prison guards. He pulled all of the strings he could to get Sandler into HIS prison, to help improve his team. Things go badly, some guards give Sandler a hickory shampoo a time or two, and all of a sudden there's going to be a game between the guards and the prisoners.

At this point, we lapse into The Replacements. Or was it Major League, or the Bad News Bears? Anyway, ragtag team of misfits is thrown together to beat an unbeatable team. There is precisely one motivating factor: a chance to beat on the guards for a while. Considering the way that these rather large guards (including Master Thespian Brian Bosworth) generally treat the prisoners, it's a foregone conclusion that Sandler gets his dream team.

You know a lot of the stuff that's going to be thrown in here. You know that the guards are going to try to mess with the prisoners and keep their team from coming together. You know that the warden's going to be sneaky and try to get Sandler to throw the game. You know that, when the team isn't quite where it needs to be, something will happen that will Bring Them Together and Strengthen Their Resolve (can't you just hear the announcer now?). You know that there will be antics. You know that Rob Schneider will show up at some point, yelling "You can do it!" You know ALL of this, but can still manage to enjoy the film.

As usual, James Cromwell makes a great and chilling bad guy. Sandler, who has matured a little in the last few years, does a believeable turn as the protagonist. Cloris Leachman is a wonderful surprise as the warden's secretary (that little nymphette!). Chris Rock is, well, Chris Rock. Nelly actually added to the film, which I wouldn't have expected. Burt Reynolds is an add-on who largely phones it in, but doesn't detract from the film. Tracey Morgan (of SNL fame) is actually one of the more memorable characters, a prison inmate who has aggresively embraced his feminine side. There are plenty of other small parts in this film that were done well, though not spectacularly, putting together a genuinely fun, stupid, underdog sports film.

In a nutshell, it's worth seeing on the big screen if someone in your group brought a flask.

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