‘Longest Yard’ Is “MTV’d-Up , Dumbed-Down Remake”
AP Movie Writer
It was easy to accept Burt Reynolds as cynical, disgraced former quarterback Paul Crewe in “The Longest Yard.” He had the look, the swagger, the physical presence.
It’s a little harder, however, to accept Adam Sand-ler as Crewe in a modern-day remake of the 1974 prison football comedy. Sandler has shown he can go beyond gross-out jokes and goofy slapstick, be-lievably playing damaged characters in “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Spanglish.” But come on — the guy’s 5-foot-10. Besides Doug Flutie, quarterbacks just aren’t that short.
(We’re also asked to believe that he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in his heyday, be-fore he was punted from the league in a point-shaving scandal. Never mind that one of Sandler’s best-known roles is starring in “The Waterboy.”)
Ultimately, though, the film from director Peter Segal (who previously directed Sandler in “50 First Dates” and “Anger Management”) and first-time screenwriter Sheldon Turner isn’t so much about Crewe as it is around him — an amped-up, crowd-pleasing spectacle that Crewe just happens to inhabit.
Their version is extremely faithful to the original, down to bits of dialogue and songs (Lynyrd Sky-nyrd’s “Saturday Night Special” as Crewe steals his uppity girlfriend’s car, the crime that lands him in prison). But this new “Longest Yard” is less of a movie than it is a two-hour series of beer commercials — sporadically funny and frequently raunchy in a guy-friendly way.
So when Crewe is forced to assemble a team of his fellow convicts at a Texas prison to compete against the guards, the hits are harder, with bodies flying through the air in slow-motion as AC/DC blares in the background. ESPN’s Chris Berman is there to provide play-by-play — and can’t resist referring to Sandler’s character as Paul “Motley” Crewe — as are cheerleaders in short-shorts and cowboy hats. (Then there are the transvestite prisoner cheerleaders, led by Tracy Morgan, who have a bigger role that’s reflective of the remake’s homophobic streak.)
As summer entertainment goes, though, this MTV’d- up and dumbed-down “Longest Yard” goes the distance. Sandler has an easy chemistry with fellow “Saturday Night Live” alum and longtime friend Chris Rock, who plays Caretaker, the team’s wisecracking manager and the inmate who can procure any imaginable item from the outside world.
Reynolds himself shows up in the role of Nate Scarborough, the football legend who’s been behind bars forever and offers to coach the inmates. (His formidable presence is a reminder of how well the original still holds up decades later.)
Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin gets to pull on his No. 88 jersey again and make some spectacular catches, and several other football players (Bill Romanowski, Brian Bosworth) and wrest-ling stars (Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg) also add authenticity on the field.
Other supporting actors seem completely over-qualified for their roles, including James Cromwell, stepping into Eddie Albert’s shoes as the power-hungry warden, and William Fichtner, who’s convincingly menacing as the abusive Captain Knauer, the guards’ quarterback.
But the people this movie is aimed at aren’t there to see them. They’re there to see Nelly, the rapper who’s moonlighting here as the cons’ running back, and who prompted squeals of glee at a recent screen-ing just by appearing in a tight, white tank top. At least it’s hot in herre for someone in this reheated summer flick.
“The Longest Yard” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, violence, language and drug references. Running time: 116 minutes.