The Longest Yard

(2005) * 1/2 Pg-13
114 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Peter Segal. Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, Nelly, James Cromwell.

As any movie buff knows by now, you've got your movies with Adam Sandler, and you've got your Adam Sandler movies. The Longest Yard is the latter, a vehicle that circumnavigates a well-worn track. With pathological attention to stereotypes and studied ignorance of the basic needs of characterization, screenwriter Sheldon Turner has one thing left: the narrative formula of Robert Aldrich's 1974 original (screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn).

People who don't mind stupid movies don't let critics stop them from watching Adam Sandler movies, but then again critics don't let undiscriminating moviegoers stop them from bashing bad movies, either, so here we go. Sandler plays Paul "Wrecking" Crewe, a former NFL quarterback who gets into a drunken domestic dispute with his girlfriend (day player Courteney Cox), drives off in her Bentley, and leads police on a car chase. Oh, yeah. Drunk driving. I'm laughing already.

Crewe gets sentenced to three years of prison, where the warden coerces him to assist the prison football league team to victory. Under duress, Crewe agrees, enlisting new buddy "Caretaker" (Chris Rock) and former Heisman trophy winner Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds, who played Sandler's role in 1974) to help him pull together a rag-tag team for a tune-up game against the prison guards (the motivator for the inmates: revenge). That's all, folks. Predictable results aside, the fun of The Longest Yard shouldn't be how it resolves, but what happens along the way.

Oddly, what happens along the way is mostly homosexual panic (the ratio of gratuitous T&A shots to gay jokes is about 1:8). Given the history of Adam Sandler movies, this psychosis should come as no surprise, but The Longest Yard—perhaps due to its double whammy of prison and football—goes to a new extreme. Not five minutes go by without a gay joke, from the gratuitous queeny friend (Patrick Bristow) of Courtney Cox's character to the drag-queen prison cheerleaders (led by a mincing Tracy Morgan).

Then there are the black jokes, the horny grandma jokes (sorry, Cloris Leachman), the product placement for fast food, soda, candy, and cars (sorry, young people of America), and a guy who dresses like Colonel Sanders, so Sandler can hilariously call him "Colonel Sanders."

The Man Show crowd can revel in the cameos by broadcasters Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, and Chris Berman; ex-football players Bill Romanowski, Brian Bosworth, and Michael Irvin; and pro wrestlers Bill Goldberg and Steve Austin. I'm not sure who pop star Nelly is here for, but he does just fine, while James Cromwell and William Fichtner make the mistake of actually acting in a movie starring Adam Sandler and a Burt Reynolds clearly to depressed to do more than walk from his trailer.

"We're all convicts, right?" asks Rock. "Maybe it's time we started acting like it!" By then, it's far too late for verisimilitude (what, Crewe doesn't have a lawyer to go after the corrupt prison administration?), humor (Rock also bellows, "Stop the violence! Can't we all get along?"), or empathy (when it comes to Crewe, a funny asshole is still an asshole). The PG-13-rated The Longest Yard is one, long low blow, and the ten to twelve year-olds can have it. Just remember kids: as fun as it all seems, fast food, soda, candy, binge drinking, reckless driving, steroids, dirty ball, and, well, yes, Adam Sandler movies are bad for you.

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