It must have seemed like a good idea at the time; to update a classic sports movie (one which is admittedly dated) with more modern jokes and actors for a new generation to enjoy. The problem arises in that "The Longest Yard" is, at its heart, a dramatic movie that succeeded because of its soul and the charisma of its leading man, Burt Reynolds. That it was funny was almost incidental to its goals; it wasn't just a steady stream of jokes. The 2005 remake staring Adam Sandler seems to miss that key point, going for the quick gag rather than building to a satisfactory resolution.
Sandler plays Paul "Wrecking" Crewe, a down-and-out ex-footballer whose life has lost all meaning. Convicted of racketeering for shaving points, he was kicked out of football and has since wasted his life as a gigolo, latching on to the rich and famous to support him. One of my (admittedly many) issues with the film comes from Sandler who isn't able to convince me of the nihilistic attitude the protagonist of this story needs to possess. If, as the saying goes, you have to hit rock bottom before you can find redemption, it seems like Sandler's Crewe has a long way to go. Furthermore he never goes through the trials and tribulations needed for acceptance in prison, just rocketing forward to the football. There is nothing shown in the film that would make me believe that this crew of convicts would have any reason to trust Crewe, a man who had it all and gave it all away.
The rest of the cast is similarly scaled down, aiming for a stereotype rather than a rounded character who can pay off later in the film. Why, when you can unleash Chris Rock on racism, a flagrant gay joke or mock fat inmates should you even try to create depth?
That's not to say some of the updates in this new version of "The Longest Yard" don't work. There are moments when I laughed uproariously because of unexpected turns; not in the story but in the way the story was carried out. By and large the jokes are sophomoric, the cinematic equivalent of a shot to the groin; they can be funny at first but grow old quickly.
Director Peter Segal's work on "The Longest Yard" is decent. He's got a good eye for shooting mood (such as Sandler's first walk through the yard) and the football scenes are spectacular. The issue comes from the film's ADD editing that doesn't allow the movie to develop organically. Quick cuts and jarring edits combine with an uneven pace to leave the viewer more confused than satisfied. The script is to blame, I feel, for a lot of this, being more concerned with shoe-horning in cameos and raunchy jokes than developing a more complete narrative.
The new version of "The Longest Yard" is a mediocre movie and a pale imitation of its source. While it hits all the major points of the story, it lacks the heart and raw emotion of the original. Part of that is to blame on Adam Sandler, who could never compare to Burt Reynolds charm. The supporting cast adds little but superficiality, played to a goofy stereotype, drawing my personal interest away from the film. 15-year olds who laugh easily will be entertained by the new "Longest Yard," but for a few dollars less you can pick up the far superior original.
The video quality of this transfer isn't the greatest, but it's hardly bad. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio is preserved Anamorphically, but the color scheme seems muted and the video isn't as bright as I was expecting. It's not bad, just not as good as I was expecting for a new movie. There are no problems with grain, artifacts or edge enhancement.
The audio tracks, on the other hand, are outstanding. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track was my preferred choice, and in it the dialogue is clean and the music tracks thump, using all five speakers. The dynamics are beautiful and there isn't a hiss to be heard.
"First Down and 25-to-Life" is a twenty minute documentary that looks behind the scenes at the making of the movie. It's nothing particularly in-depth, but a decent look at the film.
"The Care and Feeding of Pro Athletes" is a five-minute check of the food the actors on set were eating. And let me tell you… they eat better than you.
"Lights, Camera, Action" looks at the filming of the football scenes with lots of retrospective interviews from the cast and crew.
"Extra Points" plays like film school in a box, and breaks down some special effects scenes with commentary from director Peter Segal.
There are also a dozen deleted or extended scenes complete with optional commentary from Segal.
Rap fans will delight in a music video from Nelly (a star of the film) for the song "Errtime."
"Here Comes the Boom" is a recap of the film set to music. "Fumbles and Stumbles" is a set of… outtakes! Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds and Adam Sandler riffing. It just works.
There are also twelve minutes worth of previews for the new version of "The Honeymooners," "Bevis and Butthead" on DVD, and the interesting-looking "Hustle and Flow" among others.
I was less than impressed with the new version of "The Longest Yard." If you enjoyed it, this DVD set will satisfy you, with a decent video transfer and excellent audio track and a wealth of extras.