The Longest Yard

Starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds and James Cromwell. Directed by Peter Segal.
Running Time: 109 mins.
Rated: Rated M.
Paul Crewe (Sandler) is a star within the US National Football League. Convicted for having thrown a gridiron game, he sent to jail. Out to improve the prison's image, the Governor (Cromwell) demands that Crewe train his wardens for an inter-prison football match. Crewe convinces the Governor that the best way to do so would be to make the guards match-hard. So he organizes a "friendly' between the wardens and the inmates of the prison. He enlists the help of jail veterans Nate Scarborough (Reynolds) as coach and Caretaker (Rock) as the manager. The Mean Machine emerges from thwarted preparations to take on their goalers in the showdown.

In a nice touch Bert Reynolds is back in this remake of a film in which he starred in 1974. Then he played in Adam Sandler's role.

Apart from this piece of cute casting, it is hard to see why Sony thought it was a good idea to bring back what was a fairly forgettable film in the mid seventies. This time around The Longest Yard is fun in parts, equally predictable in its story line and outcome, considerably ups the ante on the racist elements within the prison, but ends up just as forgettable. But there are a couple of major shifts.

This year's version is much more crude than the original, the photography is far superior, as we would expect, the sound design is bone crunchingly loud, and the music score is better. But where it fails badly is in the title role. Even for a comedy it is necessary to buy into the premise of the script. Unlike Burt Reynolds in his heyday, it is impossible to believe that Adam Sandler is a pro in the NFL. He looks wrong in the part, and is shown up in every scene he shares with Chris Rock.

Gridiron films have never translated all that easily to Australia, but the football is secondary here to the David and Goliath, buddy story on offer. It was all too humdrum for me, but this no-new-idea film it is doing a roaring trade at the box office. Escapism sells.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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