The Longest Yard

The Longest Yard


Reviewed by: Chris

Is there any mileage in American football movies for non-US audiences?

With an all star cast, including Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds and ex-convict Edward Bunker, this remake of legendary Robert Aldrich's film about a football match with convicts, The Longest Yard would seem a sure-fire winner. For fans of American football, who can never get enough, it probably is, but how well does it translate to audiences unfamiliar with the sport?

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Our hero, Paul Crewe (Sandler), has been dropped from the professional game for fixing a result. He goes out and crashes his girlfriend's car, while drunk, and lands up in prison. After various rounds of blackmail and counter-blackmail, he is persuaded to lead the prison football team against the guards. The film straddles sports and comedy uneasily.

When someone makes a movie about our favourite hobby, we tend to find jokes much funnier, simply because we allow ourselves to be carried away on a sympathetic wave of feelgood enjoyment. For others, the jokes need to stand up on their own. Sandler and Chris Rock, both brilliant comedians in their own right, are out of their familiar territory in this movie.

Many opportunities for belly laughs are missed by inept timing and lack of pacing. The cross-dresser cheerleaders should have been riotous, but they are badly introduced and then overplayed. A constant stream of jokes about McDonalds and Coca Cola become monotonous to all but the thickest-skinned, beer-bellied macho men. There are the occasional lame attempts to portray Sandler as a sex icon, whether as the prey of the prison chief's wife, or rolling around (in slow-motion) in the mud. Is he really that gorgeous?

For more serious moviegoers, The Longest Yard may simply represent a grandstanding of all the bad things America has to offer - sadistic overcrowded prisons, steroid-chomping would-be athletes and guards who are effectively the worst type of role model. The sad thing is that the real situation is probably much worse.

The U.S. has overtaken Russia as the world's most aggressive jailer. When local prisons are included in the survey, the U.S. locks up nearly 700 people per 100,000, compared with 102 for Canada, 132 for England and Wales, 85 for France and a paltry 48 for Japan. Roughly two million Americans are currently behind bars, with some four-and-a-half on parole, or probation. At least three million Americans are ex-convicts who have served their time and one estimate reports that 13million Americans - 7% of the adult population - have been found guilty of a serious crime. Roughly one in five black men have been incarcerated at some point in their lives; one in three has been convicted of a felony.

If this wasn't bad enough, there is a small hitch with the policy of imprisoning more people than any other country on the planet. America's homicide rate is still five-to-seven times higher than most industrialised countries. The "correctional facilities" singularly fail to correct: three in four prisoners will be convicted of another crime within three years and three out of five will be back in prison. This keenness to lock people up is matched by a complete lack of interest in them when they get out.

There is no incentive for prisons, whether private or state run, to invest in reform. Their benefits need to be linked to re-offending rates - exactly the opposite to the current situation where jobs are ensured by high offending. In America, the political agenda is even stronger. The guards' unions make large donations to political parties and their salaries and benefits have been suitably looked after in return. Offenders, on the other hand, are usually barred from voting and from many jobs, something that is generally seen as helping Republicans. In Virginia and Kentucky, one in six black men cannot vote.

Edward Bunker, who played himself in Reservoir Dogs and died some time before the release of The Longest Yard, made Animal Factory with Steve Buscemi that was a tough and convincing look at prison life. This film is neither tough, convincing, nor funny - except, perhaps, for die-hard American footieheads.

Sandler is known to be a big Yankees fan and one wonders whether there is a modicum of fantasy fulfilment in this Big-Mac-Quarter-Pounder-With-Cheese no brainer of a movie.

Reviewed on: 10 Sep 2005
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Remake of the Burt Reynolds prison football drama of the Seventies - with jokes?
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Read more The Longest Yard reviews:

Josh Morrall **

Director: Peter Segal

Writer: Sheldon Turner, based on the 1974 screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn

Starring: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, James Cromwell, Walter Williamson, Michael Irvin, Nelly, Edward Bunker, Lobo Sebastian, Bob Sapp, Courteney Cox

Year: 2005

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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