Adam Sandler is still hanging in there. I didn't think he could do it, but Sandler looks like he may be pulling out a longer career than most expected. Following a successful bout with "Spanglish," which is easily one of his best movies, Sandler returns to the genre his fans love to see him in - the goofy comedy.
Amazingly enough, while "The Longest Yard," a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds film, does have plenty of goofy laughs, it cannot be billed as stereotypical Sandler, either. Sandler is much more subdued here than he has been in his early classics, which is wise - he's reaching out to a broader fan base. Of course, the downside is that Sandler really isn't anything special here, and he gets overshadowed by the likes of a couple brutish idiots and some intense football action.
"The Longest Yard" is really two movies thrown into one - the first hour is a mediocre comedy and the second is an exciting and mildly funny sports flick. Needless to say I enjoyed the second half much better than the first. Sandler stars as Paul Crewe, an ex-NFL MVP who has been put in prison after coming up on the losing end of a drunken police car chase. The warden (James Cromwell), who has assembled a sadistically brutal group of guards to play on his football team, wants Crewe to draft some of the prisoners to play against his team for the sake of training purposes. Of course, the prisoners just want to crush the guards' bones in every way and form.
Again, the first half is nothing special as many of the jokes fall flat. Sandler is okay in the lead, but his jokes are so subdued that very few ever register with the audience. I laughed most at the little known supporting cast, including Bob Sapp ("I love little Michael"), who played football for the University of Washington, and Dalip Singh ("I'm glad I didn't have to stab you"), who is making his acting debut. Chris Rock is funny at times, but his best lines ("I was so bad I got picked after the white kids") are seen in the previews. Burt Reynolds, who is acknowledging that his career is going nowhere by starring in a remake of his own film, is given little to work with.
Some tightening of the story and more attention to the dialogue could have made the first half a much more pleasurable experience, though there's nothing particularly bad about it - it's just dull. Sheldon Turner made his writing debut with this film, and the inexperience shows - though given that this movie is his first attempt, it could have been a lot worse.
Regardless of how effective the first half is, the second half is quite good and downright entertaining. The jokes work better, and, more importantly, the film gets exciting as it devotes a heck of a lot of time to football. The entire last act of the movie is centered around the game, and director Peter Segal clearly has a love for it as the audience feels every smack, slam and hit (aren't those synonyms?) the players inflict on one another. The game is well-paced and surprisingly believable, given the nature of the two sides (convicted felons versus corrupt guards). Football fans will definitely get a kick out of it.
"The Longest Yard" is a surprisingly decent film. It isn't anything great, but the second half vastly makes up for a disappointing and long introduction to the scenes everyone wants to see. It works better as a hardcore football movie with some comedy thrown in than as an Adam Sandler flick, but when the movie acknowledges this halfway through, you're in store for a fun time.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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