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THE LONGEST YARD

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, James Cromwell, Nelly, William Fichtner, Burt Reynolds
Director: Peter Segal
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: September 20, 2005

“You gotta always protect the McNuggets!”

Film ***1/2

While this year has certainly shown a trend in recycling various films and TV shows, there’s no disgrace in saying that a certain remake equalize the quality of its original source. Such is the case with The Longest Yard. The hard-edged Burt Reynolds football comedy from 1974 has been remade into an ideal star vehicle for Adam Sandler. And the truth is, this is one of Sandler’s finest moments, and if one is to remember him for a certain football comedy, it’s this one and NOT The Waterboy.

I watched the original version a few weeks prior to seeing the new version in theaters. I realized very quickly that this new version had hardly changed a word of dialogue from the original. But that hardly matters because this version is bigger, louder, and loaded with a hundred yards worth of physical comedy that were probably never thought of back in the mid 1970s.

Sandler is well suited in the previous Burt Reynolds role, disgraced former pro quarterback Paul Crewe. Crewe, who was thrown out of the league following allegations of points shaving. After leading police on a wild, crazy and alcohol-induced car chase, Crewe is arrested and sent to prison, having also violated  his probation stemming from the NFL scandal.

Crewe now finds himself amongst the population of harsh convicts at Allenville Prison. But Crewe is given much more abuse, upon arrival, from the brutal prison guards. The prison Warden, Hazen (James Cromwell), isn’t much better, but does happen to have a passion for football and has personally fought to have the former quarterback land at his prison.

Hazen wants Crewe to help coach the semi-pro prison football team, comprised of the intimidating guards. He refuses at first, but after taking even more physical abuse from the guards, and spending a week in the “Hot Box” (solitary confinement in the blazing desert), Crewe agrees to become coach, but under a different circumstance; by putting together a team of convicts to go up against the guards in what’s referred to in the college league as a warm-up game.

Helping Crewe put the game together is Caretaker (Chris Rock), the inmate with all the outside connections, and former Heisman trophy winner Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds). At first, the team recruits leave a lot to be desired. The only good players seem to be the ones who don’t trust Crewe because of the point shaving incident. But those same players, lead by Deacon Moss (Michael Irvin), join the team after getting some encouragement in the form of prison guard abuse.

And the big football game is the biggest kick (no pun intended) of this version. I’ll even go so far to say that the game sequence is even better in this version. It’s bigger, louder, and even a bit longer as it accompanies about the last fifty minutes of the movie. And the physical gags are simply the funniest moments you’ll see in any movie this year, even if they are taken directly from the original movie. There’s just something about taking a football to the testicles that will ALWAYS be funny.

If you’re a fan of both comedies and pro sports, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds in this remake. In addition to Michael Irvin, we’ve got former pro ballers Brian Bosworth, Bill Romanowski, as well as pro wrestlers Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash and Steve Austin. The biggest surprise, though, comes from rapper Nelly, who can add two more traits to his resume, as he is a most decent actor and a phenomenal athletic presence.

In a year of one remake too many; it’s good to find one that doesn’t step on the memory of the original and manages to be just as hard-edged and enormously funny. The cast is dynamite, the scope of the movie is larger than life, and the all around effect of it is, if anything, of a crowd-pleasing caliber, to say the least.

Video ****

Not only do I find this to be Paramount’s finest looking disc so far this year, but it’s also one of the best looking discs OF the year in general. The anamorphic picture is stunning from beginning to end with not a single flaw in sight. The clarity and detail of the image is quite simply outstanding, along with fantastic colors to boot. A Full Screen version is also available, but this is one movie you will definitely want to see in its Widescreen glory!

Audio ****

And Paramount has also managed to match the awesome video quality with a ferocious 5.1 mix worthy of the most brutal quarterback sack, and I mean that in a good way. This action-packed comedy contains enough sports action, bombastic music on the soundtrack, and tremendous treatment of set pieces to make for a level of audio that will rock your socks off, as well as a terrific dialogue delivery. The big game showdown is one of the most outstanding sequences I’ve ever seen and heard in the DVD format.

Features ****

Paramount gains another First Down with this fully locked and loaded Special Collector’s Edition. There’s a commentary track with director Peter Segal, and deleted/extended and alternate scenes with optional commentary. We are also given a total of six featurettes, starting with “First Down and Twenty-Five to Life: The Making of The Longest Yard”; “The Care and Feeding of Pro Athletes”; “Lights, Camera, Touchdown!”; “Extra Points: Visual Effects”; “Here Comes the Boom” and “Fumbles and Stumbles”. There’s also a music video for Nelly’s song “Errtime”, and there are also several bonus previews.

Summary:

Adam Sandler and company score a mighty and furious touchdown with this terrific remake of The Longest Yard. Even if you’ve seen the original a dozen times, you won’t have a single problem adjusting to this big and sprawling update, which is filled to the brim with laughs and in-your-face sports action at its absolute best!

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