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Longest Yard, The Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

Over the years, I've realized how futile it is to write reviews of Adam Sandler's movies. More than any other comedic actor in recent memory, Sandler has been blessed with a core audience, people who know what to expect from his movies and will dutifully see every one of them before even knowing what they're about. On the one hand, it proves he's a good businessman—Sandler knows what his fans want, and he delivers every time. Which is not to say that Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy and The Longest Yard are the same movie, because they are not, but they do exist in the same distinctly Sandler niche. Any fan of Sandler is gonna love this new movie, which has all the low-brow humor, random gross-outs and strange characters you'd expect. For some, The Longest Yard will be satisfying.

But I wonder just how satisfying it will be for them. Compare The Longest Yard to Billy Madison, a movie I don't really like, but that many kids my age swear by. Billy Madison is, at the very least, fast and wild comedy, admirable for its energy and for its almost childish need for attention. It represents a young Adam Sandler who was just out for some cheap laughs. But The Longest Yard represents an older, lazier Sandler, who looks too tired to mumble gibberish or hit Bob Barker with a golf club. There are even times when it feels like its trying to be a serious movie. I don't know if The Longest Yard is any funnier than Sandler's other films—I don't particularly like his humor, so I'm not the best to gauge its success. However, even though I never get the punch lines, I can always feel the force behind Sandler's delivery, and The Longest Yard sincerely lacks that force. It's as if Sandler doesn't care that much about this one.

The greatest evidence of this is in the film's story. Somehow, The Longest Yard is a remake of a 1974 film, but its plot feels like the hackneyed garbage from the Hollywood machine of the new millennium. In the movie, Sandler plays a former NFL quarterback, which should make even the most accepting viewers do a double take. The sullen-looking, slightly chubby Sandler is as much a quarterback as Hayden Christensen is an actor. But the movie seems to shrug its shoulders at the incongruity, as if it doesn't have the energy to tar over the plot hole, much like a reluctant couch potato who can't quite reach the remote.

Anyway, as The Longest Yard opens, Sandler's character is arrested for drunk driving, but it's a humorous sort of drunk driving where no one gets hurt—even when Sandler's Bentley is rammed by cop cars on all sides. He's sent to a Texas prison where the local warden (played smugly by James Cromwell) has trained his security guards to play football. The team is in prime shape, but they need a warm-up, so the warden asks Sandler to whip up a team of convicts to challenge the guards.

At this point, I had a few questions. 1) If the warden cares so much about football, why is he a warden? He recruits the best college players to be guards at his jail—why not just apply for a coaching job at a nice university? 2) If we accept that, and then we accept that the warden wants his team to play the inmates for an easy win, then why does he let the inmates practice? Wouldn't it be funnier for the guards if they were allowed to just cream a bunch of criminals on the field?

3) Why was I thinking all of this during an Adam Sandler movie? I've seen a few of these—shouldn't I just take The Longest Yard for what it is and know that it isn't aiming for more than a few passing laughs? Probably. But I wasn't laughing during The Longest Yard, and I wasn't swept up in its energy, so what else was I supposed to do? Count the number of shameless product placements (one character is like an unofficial McDonald's spokesman)? Close my eyes until Burt Reynolds stopped embarrassing himself? We go to the movies to be entertained, and sometimes even to be moved. We all know that some movies aren't up to either challenge. But a new world of imagination is opened when you are forced to entertain your own mind in a movie theater. You can contemplate the facts of life, work out a grocery list, or make up your own movie in your head. Of course, if you aren't that creative, don't worry—I'm sure you can sneak into Revenge of the Sith just down the hall.

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