Off-Color Jokes and Perversion Mark "The Longest Yard"
- Thursday, May 26, 2005
Release Date: May 27, 2005
Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, violence, language and drug references)
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…”
People, please. Almost 40 percent of the United States is comprised of Southerners, and more U.S. presidents have come from this region than from any other. Besides, I’m getting a little sick of these clichéd, below-the-belt jabs about how stupid and backwards we all are. There are lots of things to joke about, when it comes to Southerners, so can we get some new material?
Oh, but if Southern stereotypes were the only ones in this film. We also have the evil guards (every last one of them), the large, illiterate black man, the wisecracking black man, the grunting native American, the big fat guy (with repeated shots of his belly – oh, how hilarious), a sex-starved elderly lady and a host of gay men who cross-dress and shout crude innuendo. Also, the inmates as well as the prison setting have little connection with reality. Sadly, these farfetched cinematic clichés form the bedrock of the film’s characterization, which is not only weak but frankly, insulting.
To make matters worse, we never hear anything personal about the men (including why they are incarcerated), so we never bond with them. Thus, we really don’t care whether they win or lose. Moreover, Crewe’s decision about the game – which is supposed to inject him with some character – is far too little and late to make a difference. Rock wisecracks his way through the film, but his jokes (about O.J. and Forrest Gump, for example) are pathetically stale. Courtney Cox does a decent job – with all five minutes of her role. I should feel sorry for Cloris Leachman (in Bernadette Peters’ role – another change from serious to slapstick), but she’s far too ridiculous for pity. And, even with multiple facelifts, Reynolds just seems old and tired.
The biggest problem is that neither the screenwriter nor director Peter Segal (“50 First Dates”) seem to be able to decide what kind of film this is. Is it an Adam Sandler sex & potty comedy, or is it a serious film? With some 150 obscenities, countless sexual references (mostly homosexual) and two pornographic videos (one heterosexual, one homosexual) thrown in, it’s obviously a sex comedy – and mostly a gay sex comedy. However, the bizarre addition of a few serious scenes – like the jarring death of an important character – knock even the humor off kilter. Either way, it’s the most foul, violent and perverted PG-13 film I have ever seen in my life. And that’s saying something. Wake up, Motion Picture Association of America – and get a decent rating system.
There’s no real message here, except perhaps some buried, misguided sentiment about loyalty and the redemptive power of sports (honor among thieves, perhaps?). Oh, and let’s not forget the eponymous placement ads – for ESPN, Kettle One Vodka, McDonalds, you name it – which pollute the film even further. Thus, the only thing I can recommend about “The Longest Yard” is to run a mile in the other direction.
AUDIENCE: Adults only
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Heavy. Lots of drinking at a party, including drunk driver who sips from open container then offers beer to police officers; drinking by inmates in several scenes and several references to drugs, including one character who offers to get another “weed, meth or coke – whatever you want.” Several scenes with cigarettes.
- Language/Profanity: Extreme. Approximately 150 obscenities, including one f-word and four n-words; and four profanities (“GD”).
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Extreme. Multiple jokes/innuendoes about sex, sodomy, strippers, pornography and genitalia (including crude names for male genitalia); multiple jokes/innuendoes and portrayals of homosexuality, including a video where one man, dressed as a woman, seduces another and falls to floor in a passionate embrace (seen behind a curtain); elderly woman makes suggestive comments about male inmate, then is later seen in her underwear posing crudely after apparently engaging in sex with the inmate;
- Violence: Heavy. Car chase, multiple car pile-up (crash); prison guard brutality including multiple vicious beatings; prison brutality among inmates including violent explosion that kills one.
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