A lot of people regard the classic sports comedy The Longest Yard from 1974 as the greatest football comedy, if not film on the sport, of all time. The film as a concept isn't all that original, but the impassioned performances, themes, tone, and laughs make it very memorable.
Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and a motley crew of wrestlers, athletes, and character actors try to reawaken the magic of the 1974 classic. And surprisingly, it is quite a faithful remake.
Sandler stars as Paul Crewe, a washed up NFL quarterback who was banned from the NFL for illegal betting practices. After a drunk-driving escapade, Crewe ends up having to serve time in a maximum security prison run by the ruthless Warden Hazen (James Cromwell). The warden tries to make a deal with Crewe to help coach his prison-league football team, which is made up of the prison's guards. Hazen believes that his team could benefit from Crewe's help. Crewe suggests having a warm-up game against a team made up of inmates. The warden agrees and gives Crewe 10 days to whip a team into shape.
The group that Crewe assembles is a ruthless bunch whose sole purpose seems to bring harm to the guards. Why not, it's football, right? Can Crewe hold the team together long enough to win the game? Or will he give up on himself and the team?
The Longest Yard has the spirit of the original film at its core and even has some key moments that echo the exact scenes from the original. The best way to compare this film and the original is that it's like comparing the way the NFL is today verses what it was like in the 1970s. The tone, style, and feel of the game has changed a lot in 30 years.
This film is a lot of fun and makes for a great summer popcorn movie. I really liked a lot of the cameos and supporting characters. I felt that Sandler was a good hero-type character and Rock was a great comedic mouthpiece to Sandler's hero.
Some problems I had with the film were some of the disruptions in tone. There is a lot of comedy here, but when the plot has to be serious for a moment, it offsets the film's rhythm. This wasn't the case with the original, since the tone was consistent throughout.
I also somewhat disliked the whole Burt Reynolds angle. Having him in the film was very distracting. That was especially true when it came down to the final game.
I also felt that the warden's sidekick/campaign manager was really lacking. I liked the introductory joke, but felt the character was wasted for the rest of the picture. There needed to be more of an impact there. The same goes for the character of Captain Knauer, played by William Fichtner. There is a lot more to the character in the original film than the new film allows.
The Longest Yard is a great popcorn remake told in a vastly different tone than the original, but fun nonetheless. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.