Having never seen the 1974 original, which starred Burt Reynolds in the Adam Sandler role, the positively hateful 2005 remake of "The Longest Yard" doesn't exactly make me feel like I've missed out on much. Surely, though, there is no way it could be as strikingly hideous as this embarrassing update. Like 2004's "Christmas with the Kranks
," the film initially would seem like a relatively harmless comedy, but also like that Yuletide catastrophe, "The Longest Yard" goes so wrong in so many ways that the mind boggles.
A football movie with the twist being that the players are a group of rough and rowdy prison inmates going up against the abusive guards, Adam Sandler (2004's "Spanglish
") stars as former NFL quarterback Paul Crewe, who, in a drunken stupor, steals the Bentley owned by his domineering girlfriend, Lana (Courteney Cox), defies the cops who pull him over, and causes a multiple police car pileup. Sentenced to three years at the dusty Allenville State Penitentiary, Paul is immediately beat up by the guards, who take psychotic delight in physically harassing the inmates. Through a series of contrived developments, he and immediate buddy Caretaker (Chris Rock) find themselves enlisting the most promising men among them to go into football training in anticipation of an upcoming game between them and the guards, to be televised on ESPN2. For the inmates, too long bullied and long since fed up by the treatment they have been given by the prison workers, this is payback time.
Uninspiringly directed by Peter Segal (2004's "50 First Dates
"), "The Longest Yard" is a spiteful excursion into irredeemable mean-spiritedness that wallows shamelessly in the moldiest of comic punchlinescobwebs can almost actually be glimpsed around the fringes of the shotsand the most derogatory and offensive of stereotypes. The characters either have one broad defining characteristic or none at all; indeed, not a single inmate aside from protagonist Paul ever even mentions why they are in prison, nor do they come close to resembling actual human beings that might live on planet earth.
Mostly, the screenplay by Sheldon Turner laughs at the characters, trying with all its might to humiliate every last one of them in one way or another. Instead of coming up with a diverse collection of clever comedic asides, Turner pounds the same jokes, not one of them funny, into the ground. One inmate, for example, has a rotund belly, and so it is shown over and over again in anticipation of laughs, but what, exactly, is supposed to be the joke? That a person is overweight? Ms. Tucker (Tracy Morgan) is one of a gaggle of overtly effeminate homosexual men who gaze longingly at their fellow inmates while dressing in women's clothes. No attempt is made to treat him as anything other than a freak meant to be ridiculed. Gay jokes can be funnyanything can be funny in the right contextbut there is a nasty undercurrent to the ones here that are absolutely disgusting, especially when considered that they are showing up in the semi-progressive day and age of 2005. The warden's secretary, Lynette (Cloris Leachman), is an elderly lady who coaxes Paul into sexual acts by feeding him wine; there is no point to her other than to be used as throwaway shock value, and poor Cloris Leachman, a respectable veteran actress, is put in the worst possible light in a hopeless role.
The rest of the comedy is just as depressing, if not subjectively offensive than offensive all the same for its hackneyed nature. At one point, Paul calls a character "Colonel Sanders," a joke that I could swear has been used before in an Adam Sandler film. A reference to 1994's "Forrest Gump" ("Run, Forrest, run!") passed its expiration date nearly a decade ago, as did one about O.J. Simpson. As for the rest of the would-be humor, it is of the ball-to-the-groin and fall-in-the-mud variety, so lazy and unoriginal it has to be seen to be believed (but shouldn't be, under any circumstances). When the picture occasionally takes a dramatic turn, as in the unfortunate death of a lead character, its inappropriately abrupt mawkishness is distasteful, falling flatter than Wile E. Coyote in the "Road Runner" cartoons. The less said about the sickeningly manipulative "big game" finale, which doesn't earn its feel-good aspirations because there isn't a likable character to root for, the better.
As down-on-his-luck has-been Paul Crewe, Adam Sandler has never been so uncharismatic on film before. While not wholly the actor's faultalthough the executive producer in him is to blamePaul is introduced as smarmy and isn't developed enough thereafter to get an idea of who he really is. As Caretaker, Chris Rock (2003's "Head of State
") isn't the star attraction he is being advertised as; his role is minimal to the action and Rock's usual self-deprecation is, this time, forgettable, to say the least. As longtime prison inmate Nate Scarborough, Burt Reynolds (2004's "Without a Paddle
") is set adrift in a nothing part. Finally, R&B artist Nelly transfers uncomfortably to acting as inmate Earl Megget, and Courteney Cox (2001's "3000 Miles to Graceland
") appears for ten minutes at the beginning and is never seen or heard from again. Too badCox is the only actor who exhibits even a remote semblance of energy into her thankless performance.
An odious, detestable work spreading hate and venom even as it thinly poses as a carefree sports comedy, it has been a long time, maybe since 2004's "The Whole Ten Yards
," that a motion picture has come along to derive such strong feelings of animosity in me. "The Longest Yard" is worthless and then some, making Sandler's previous football movie, 1998's gleefully dumb "The Waterboy
," look like an example of comic brilliance and narrative originality in comparison. Sexist, homophobic, pointless and overloaded with brain-crushing bigotry of all people and lifestyles, "The Longest Yard" has an evil and putrid secret agenda that couldn't have less to do with the sport of football if it tried.