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IN SHORT: Rude, Crude and more entertaining than Episode III . . .[Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, violence, language and drug references. minutes]
. . . That comparison is like comparing apples to oranges but, given the timing of the big screen release of The Longest Yard, our only alternative lead was: "In a high security prison, a not-so-friendly football game between inmates and guards can bring the walls down. How come no one thought of doing this before? Oh. Right. Someone did." We can't use that lead because, overall, we enjoyed The Longest Yard quite a bit. Then again, for an Adam Sandler comedy as rude and crude and as funny as they usually are, The Longest Yard sure pissed Cranky off right from the get go. We know how to lock all that stuff away. We wouldn't bring it up unless it gave us something to rant about, rant being our middle name, so we'll describe and dispose if it, quickly.
Three years after being booted out of the NFL in a point shaving scandal, one time quarterback Paul Crewe (Sandler) isn't much good for anything but appearing as a famous face at his beautiful wife Lena's (Courtney Cox Arquette) luxurious parties. Arquette looks muy ultra fine in a slinky red gown and she is muy ultra p.o.'d that her hubby prefers to watch a football games on the bedroom HD screen, instead of working the floor and thrilling her effeminate friends. Paul storms out of the house and drives off in the wife's Bentley with a six pack of beer riding shotgun in the passenger seat. Paul's got most of another six pack in his belly as well and the resulting police chase and multi-car pileup makes the local cable news channels and violates his probation status.
It's a good visual gag, one that may be funny to 99% of y'all but to yours Cranky, who once had a near and dear femme friend lose her head to a drunk driver -- and we mean that in the absolute, totally decapitated sense -- there is nothing that will sour us faster on any comedy than using drunk driving for a joke. That death, by the way, was two decades back and it still bothers us. We don't get over senseless loss of life like that so easily and we long ago lost any ability to find humor in the actions of a drunk. But that's the way it is. We'll file those unpleasant memories away and move on.
That The Longest Yard quickly had us giggling like an idiot, when we weren't reacting to a variety of blows to the groin area, is testament to how funny the movie is. We're not sure about the PG-13 Rating and wouldn't bring the preteens in our posse to see the thing but we're bordering on old farthood. Parental units, you know your kids better than we do. If they've been through any of the other rude crude Sandlerflicks, you pretty much know the deal and can determine your actions accordingly
Post DUI, Paul is shipped off to Allenville Federal Penitentiary, a rundown prison in a Texas dust bowl. There he is beaten silly by guards who don't want him participating in a scheme the warden (James Cromwell) has for developing a winning football team for something akin to a Corrections Officers League. So, which is better, do ya think? Getting beaten by guards or getting whupped by all the punishments a warden can muster? Either choice means pain and the solution reached quickly in this fast paced film is to stage a game between the "pro" guards team and assorted rabble from the prison cells. Considering the marquee value of the man who will ultimately coach the team -- 1955 Heisman trophy winner Nate Scarboro (Burt Reynolds) -- television rights are quickly snapped up by ESPN2. Take a grain of salt, spread liberally over your popcorn and sit back
Aiding the defamed QB is the most connected of inmates, a man called Caretaker (Chris Rock). For additional comic relief we get the comparatively pint sized Brucie (Nick Turturro) whose self-image is too big for his britches, the also pint sized but supremely talented running back Megget, (rap singer Nelly), former NFL player Terry Crews, as well as half a dozen cross dressing cheerleaders, led by ex-SNL star Tracy Morgan. The guards, of course, don't find anything funny and wouldn't mind taking out the enemy with as much pain and suffering as possible. How perfect that the bruisers on the team are drawn from the ranks of professional wrestling (Kevin Nash, "Stone Cold"Steve Austin and Bill Goldberg) and NFL football (Brian Bosworth, Bill Romanowski and Michael Irvin),
Last, but not the least of our cast of characters to be saluted, is the one guard who isn't bad to the bone (William Fichtner) and the warden's horny secretary (Cloris Leachman).
You don't have to think much about how a rooting audience will want to see the rabble overcome the well oiled competitive machine, even if the "heroes" are a random selection of the scum of the earth. The bigger question is whether or not our hero QB really did "fix" his games, as accused and, if so, what's to keep him from doing so again given proper motivation? It's a question that waits until the Third Act, since Sandler's character needs the middle of the film to properly form and train a team that doesn't want to be properly formed trained. There are plot enough twists that find their way into the story that we can't tell you much more without ruining the fun. The plot is thin but the characters are interesting and fun to watch, especially if you are weighted down by a stadium sized bucket of popcorn.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Longest Yard, he would have paid . . .
For grownups. The Longest Yard is a lot of fun.
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