Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Longest Yard

The Longest Yard (Director: Peter Segal)

Segal has become Adam Sandler's go-to guy. He previously directed 50 First Dates and Anger Management. Besides that, he tackled The Naked Gun 33 1/3, Nutty Professor 2, My Fellow Americans, and Tommy Boy. The Longest Yard is a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds vehicle, based on the story by one of the original's producers, Albert S. Ruddy (who executive produced this) and the screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn, this remake was written by newcomer Sheldon Turner.

Our 4th remake of the year, and it's only May. Why would a movie, already considered a classic, get remade? I was trying to figure this out while watching this film--and another pointless remake hit my conscious, the Gus Van Sant Psycho. The answer, I believe, is simply money. I think it's a studio looking at their library, someone saying, "You know what was a good movie? The Longest Yard. How can we milk this some more?" and then someone says "We'll remake it!" and then there's some sort of "Six Million Dollar Man" series of observations. "We can make it better."

Because, sadly, a studio can't just reissue a movie like this, or Psycho, or Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. A movie made in the seventies (or before), as we have witnessed with the difference between the original Star Wars and the new ones, had a completely different pace. It took its time. It might have the same length as its eventual remake, but the remake will stuff a whole lot more, not necessarily better, into its innards.

So, is it any surprise that The Longest Yard remake stays faithful? it's the stuff that is changed or added that will come under scrutiny. Then, we wonder if it had any point in being made. Do the changes enhance the original film? The biggest changes come during the actual game--the most cringe-worthy being a guy who has been taking steroids who has had his pills changed with estrogen and becomes a muscular weepy bitch. They change certain plays, certain lines of dialogue (one particular scene has completely been changed to make this a sub-R-rated film).

The plot concerns Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler) a former all-pro quarterback who lost his meal ticket when he was suspected of shaving points during a game. During some wild drunken driving, he gets caught and sent to jail, then transferred to football-hungry Warden Hazen's prison--the warden of course wanting Crewe to help out his semi-pro football team made up of his guards, desperate for a championship. So Crewe suggests scheduling a weak opponent and beat the crap out of them, a la college football (Miami versus ITT Tech, for instance), and the warden gets the idea that it could be his guards versus the convicts. We see the recruitment, the dirty tricks, the practices, leading up to the game. Helping out is Caretaker (Chris Rock), who serves as the guy who can get things in prison. And Burt Reynolds, the original Crewe, makes a return as "Coach" Nate Scarborough.

The movie doesn't flinch from the original's darker moments, but what a shame that it does flinch, on a marketing level, to make this PG-13. The funniest line comes from Chris Rock, which gives the movie it's requisite one "fuck" utterance. Those changes, tiny tweaks, make the movie not all that worthwhile. Sandler is restrained, and when Sandler's comedies shy away from the oddball Billy Madison-type stuff, they can seem entirely too ordinary. Since that seems to be the point of remaking this, to make it a moneymaking Sandler vehicle, it comes up short--although I imagine the film will succeed on that level. Just not for a critical eye.

Tons of cameos in here. I did like Michael Irvin's performance. I guess for those who haven't seen the original, this might be fun on some level. I mean after all, they don't know it's watered down. I was actually enjoying it until the actual football game, which ruined it for me, especially with a groaner of an exchange between Captain Knauer (William Fichtner) and Crewe at the end of the film.

So yeah, disappointing. It's a fairly fun summer sports picture, and I guess that's all anyone really asks this time of year.


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