In the 1974 Burt Reynolds’s classic The Longest Yard (directed by Robert Aldrich), disgraced pro football wash-up Paul Crewe was a laughingly bitter, cynical swagger of a man. In the film’s first five minutes—he’s angrily shoved a woman, stolen her maserati and punched two cops while yucking it up in a bar. He’s not a nice guy and yet, in Reynolds’s hands, one charming son of a bitch. In the PC Adam Sandler re-make Crewe (Sandler) is merely lost—a boy/man whose MVP disrepute leads him to drunken, reckless driving and a goofy cop car pileup a la The Dukes of Hazard.
Sent to a Texan prison, he contends with a sadistic guard (William Fichtner), a corrupt Warden (James Cromwell) and inmates (including Chris Rock) he’ll eventually bond with while putting together a rag-tag football team intent on beating the guards. Problem is, Crewe’s been requested to throw the game in exchange for a reduced sentence. Can he possibly do such a thing? That question won’t nag the viewer in Peter Segal’s film, a predictable, choppy affair that at best, boasts an understated, likable performance by Sandler.
Which is no surprise since the comic actor has always revealed more layers than his knee jerk detractors so quickly claim. Sandler is really good here—mature, confidentially controlled, you can see hints of a complicated man underneath his pro-football stud-li-ness (no Waterboy antics). He could be interesting. But Segal just lets him just be--negleting to add the needed poignancy towards Crewe or the story itself (save for a "lovable" character's easy death). And unlike Aldrich’s vision where physical and mental anger comment on the character’s pride and highlight one kick-ass football game, we feel neither the excited anticipation of the final game nor the redeemable dimension of the sordid, finally, soulful protagonist. Forgoing the raw, Segal sadly, chose the rah, rah.
"The Longest Yard" opens today, May 27.