‘The Longest Yard’ – Not Better Than Burt’s First
Sandler tries to fill Burt’s old shoes as the corrupted pro quarterback, Paul Crewe, who winds up in prison after being booted from the league for a point-saving scam and bashing up his girlfriend’s Bentley. Reynolds is now busted college football coach Nate Scarborough, buddying up with Crewe and prison confidence man Caretaker (Chris Rock). The trio attempt to put together a football crew of convicts (the Mean Machine) to play the semipro team of guards, which is pet project of nasty warden Hazen (James Cromwell, almost as evil as was the late Eddie Albert in “Yard One”).
While the film is tailored to Sandler’s “Saturday Night Live” comedy (complete with cross-dressing cheerleaders led by Tracy Morgan), the plot pretty much matches the Robert Aldrich-directed original. What’s updated is the bone-crunching sports-action footage, which builds to a killer climax on the gridiron.
Aging Reynolds brings poignancy to his part, as Rock mutes his wisecrackery with a tragic death scene. Even Sandler slides into sentiment when he wrestles his conscience in deciding whether to sell-out a team once again.
A new character is Maggett, portrayed by rapper Nelly. He overcomes his anti-white racism, after Crewe proves his can jump like the brothers in a one-on-one basketball bout. Nelly shows he can jump as well…from music to movies.
Missing is the up-against-the-establishment attitude that made the original socially relevant in the ‘70’s. Sandler’s comedy mainly focuses on macho one-liners amidst Crewe’s quest for acceptance from his teammates. Still, his fans won’t be disappointed.
However, it’s easy to see why Reynolds was upset that a reporter hadn’t seen the first “Yard” (the star slapped the guy during the red carpet premiere). The original was an Aldrich masterpiece, second only to “The Dirty Dozen.” Maybe, Sandler should remake that classic in context with the war in Iraqi. Why not? Hollywood appears to have given up on new ideas in favor of redoing the old.
But Reynolds is right. Check out the originals. They’re better.