Friday, May 27, 2005

The Longest Yard

dir. Peter Segal

Adam Sandler has always bugged me. I can't really blame him for doing what he's done with his career. With the surprise success's of "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore" (which is actually kind of funny), he has essentially made the same movie about ten more times, and with the exception of "Little Nicky," he has had a huge hit with all of them. He has become the master of today's dumb ass comedies. When I watch old Abbott and Costello or Jerry Lewis movies, I wonder if that is who Sandler will be compared to in twenty or thirty years. I wonder if people will actually watch "Mr. Deeds" and "Big Daddy," and think they are some kind of silly masterpiece. I know I won't ever, but I also think Lewis and Abbott and Costello movies are pretty dumb, so what do I know?

However, what bugs me is that when he does venture a little bit and try something different he shows how talented he really is. "Punch Drunk Love" is one of the ten best films so far to come out of this decade, and while "Spanglish" was a piece of shit, Sandler was winning as a strong father figure who couldn't stand up to his bitch of a wife (Tea Leoni). But, as one may guess, these movies don't quite make the money that a "Big Daddy" can make, so he must go back to that staple again and again. I just hope it's so he can make more of the stronger films; I hear he's going to be in Tarantino's "Inglorious Bastards," if the damn thing ever gets made.

So, if you couldn't already guess, I'm not a huge fan of the Adam Sandler comedies, but judging from the packed house I watched "The Longest Yard" with today I am in the minority. They actually applauded at the end; "Star Wars" didn't even get an applause in the showing I went to. So, this review probably doesn't count for shit to the Sandler enthusiast, but I'll throw in my two cents anyways.

I'll go ahead and say that as far as an Adam Sandler comedy goes, this is one of the better ones. I still think "Happy Gilmore" is his best one, and it's pretty damn dumb, but this one is in the same vein. "The Longest Yard" is of course a remake of the 1974 film of the same name starring Burt Reynolds (who is also in this one). The movie was also remade a couple of years ago with Vinnie Jones as "Mean Machine," and it replaced football with soccer. This one, however, goes back to the football theme.

The movie definately has its moments. Chris Rock, who I usually don't like in films, is given most of the better lines. Although the best line in the movie goes to Jim Rome, playing himself. Sandler throws in a lot of nods and winks to his other films, like when Rob Schneider stands up in the big game and shouts "You can do it." This got the audience roaring; I have never once figured out why this is so funny to people. He's had Schneider do this in many of his films, but I cannot remember once outside of a movie hearing someone utter this line. It's not "Luke, I am your father," people. Michael Irvin actually gives a pretty decent performance; there's quite a few football players in the movie, and Irvin stands out from the pack. Bill Romanowski, for instance, is like pulling your fingernails out one by one. There's also plenty of situational and gross out humor; some of it sticks, but most of it fell flat for me.

A couple of things really drew me out of this film. And I know this isn't Shakespeare, but there are plenty of better sports comedies out there, so I might be a little rough with this one. For one thing, I never once bought Sandler as a former star quaterback. I would have rather them let Reynolds reprise the role; he's much more believable in the one scene he's on the field than Sandler ever is. Keanu Reeves pulled it off better in "The Replacements," and not to mention people like Dennis Quaid, Jaime Foxx, and Nick Nolte who have played much more convincing QB's in much better films. Hell, I'll take Kurt Russell in the god awful "Best of Times" over Sandler any day. The other thing in the movie that I never understood was the tone. It's all over the place. Sometimes the movie is just a stupid comedy, and sometimes it wants to be more of a drama. The original film, while not great, did a much better job at balancing the two genres. For those that will see this, I don't want to completely give the scene away, but there is a scene right before the big game that is supposed to be tragic and sad and instead comes off misplaced and foolish. For that one scene, I thought I was watching a completely different movie.

All that being said, I had some fun watching it. Although, there have been many better final games in much better sports movies. But for most of the film I was pretty bored. If you looked up mediocre movies this one would have to be on the list. It's a movie that has plenty of things going for it, but in the end it can't figure out how to translate those moments into anything worthwhile. Like many movies that have come out this year, the movie lacks life. It's a roll with the punches kind of a thing when you really want to see a knockout.

Final Grade - C


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