Release Date:  May 27, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, violence, language and drug references)
Genre:    Comedy/Prison/Sports
Run Time:  114 min.
Director:    Peter Segal
Actors:   Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, Nelly, James Cromwell, William Fichtner, Cloris Leachman, Courtney Cox

Boy, has the word “comedy” changed during the past 30 years.  I discovered this when I went to rent the original “The Longest Yard,” with Burt Reynolds, made in 1974.  To my surprise – because I remembered the film as a drama – it sat in the comedy section of the video store.  After watching it, however, I realized that it was actually a comedy – of the kind they used to make.  Meaning, it was a drama with a happy ending (Shakespeare, anyone?).  Nowadays, however, “comedy” has come to mean slapstick silliness, usually with a lot of off-color jokes.  In the case of Adam Sandler, it also means lots of perversion.  No surprise here, but still, what a shame.

Sandler ( “Spanglish”) stars as Paul Crewe, a former NFL player who is down on his luck, thanks to a points-shaving scandal that ended his career 8 years ago.  After a fight with his girlfriend (Courtney Cox), the drunken Crewe borrows her Bentley, outruns the cops and leads them all into a multi-car pileup.  For reasons known only to Bush-hating filmmakers, Crewe somehow ends up in a Texas prison (in the original, it was Florida).  In case we forget this little dig at our president and all Texans in general, we’re treated to constant close-ups of the Texas flags on the guards’ uniforms.  Too bad, because with the flat Texas setting, we don’t get any of the original film’s swamp scenes.  With a few minor exceptions, the locale may be the only deviation this remake makes, however, having not only lifted characters, plot and dialogue from the original, but also copied it, scene-for-scene.

Like all the other inmates, Crewe is immediately subjected to vicious beatings by the sadistic guards, who warn him not to accept the warden’s offer to train their semi-pro team.  The warden (James Cromwell), who has pulled strings to get Crewe into his prison for just this task, is furious.  However, he likes Crewe’s suggestion that, prior to the big game, they boost the guards' morale by having them play against a loser team.  That loser team, the warden decides, will be the inmates – and Crewe is to be their coach and quarterback.

Although Crewe is initially dismayed by the inmates’ lack of skill and experience, he is aided by his new best friend, Caretaker (Chris Rock) and Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds), another inmate and former NFL player who for some reason was completely overlooked by the warden.  By recruiting some of the meanest and toughest guys around – and resorting to some unorthodox methods – the inmates are ultimately able to give the guards a run for their money (Hey! Without any practices, either!).  They do this to the delight of ESPN2, who is filming the big game (complete with stilted cameos).  But when it looks as if the Mean Machine (as the inmates call their team) might win, the politician-bound warden gives Crewe an ultimatum:  either forfeit the game or spend a few decades behind bars.

This movie is so bad I truly do not know where to start.  First of all, as uninspired as the original film was, at least it had good actors.  In particular, it boasted a well-cast Burt Reynolds in the lead, long before he was so desperate that he took movies like “Without a Paddle” – and long before he had so much plastic surgery that he looks like Bob Barker’s evil twin.  This film, on the other hand, is saddled with Adam Sandler.  Even if you can get over the ridiculous hurdle that a pipsqueak like Sandler was not only an NFL quarterback, but also an MVP player, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the guy simply cannot act.  We’re also treated to horrendously stereotypical and over-the-top fake Southern accents by both Cromwell and his “Colonel Sanders” look-alike sidekick (“Wha I decla-yah!”).  Even the ESPN announcer opens the game with, “Deep in the heart of toothless country…”