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June 3, 2005

"The Longest Yard" goes the distance

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
"The Longest Yard" was brutally assailed by the movie critics this past weekend, but if you're looking for a fun way to spend two hours, this film is for you.

While Adam Sandler is not nearly as good a Paul Crewe, a troubled ex-NFL quarterback, as Burt Reynolds was in the original "Yard," this version does something the original did not. Rather than just have a great plot and football outline, it manages to appeal not just to sports fans, but also to hip-hop fans and people who just enjoy laughing. It allows the viewer to just sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness of the film.

In "Yard," Crewe, out of the NFL for six years since he got a lifetime ban for rigging games, is sent to a federal prison in West Texas after getting drunk and crashing his sugar mama's (Courtney Cox) car.

When Crewe gets to Allenville Penitentiary, an evil warden (James Cromwell) gives Crewe the task of assembling a team of convicts to play a warm-up game against the Allenville guards, who are part of a semi-pro football league.

The original 1974 version of "Yard" was a huge hit for Burt Reynolds, and one of the best sports films ever made. Reynolds looked and felt like a real quarterback; Sandler looks as much that part as I do. While Sandler managed looked like an insane hockey player in "Happy Gilmore," he just doesn't ever convey the aura of an athlete with real talent in "Yard."

However, Sandler as Crewe, and his assistants Caretaker (Chris Rock) and Nate Scarborough (Reynolds) have great chemistry on screen and are very funny as they put together a roster of cons that don't care about the sport. The football scenes are filmed incredibly tightly, so it is hard to gauge how realistic the action scenes appear. But still, director Peter Segal ("50 First Dates") manages to please a large crowd.

He leaves little to the imagination, because the movie is two hours of violent, bone-crunching football action, interspersed with ridiculous comedic exploits, homophobic undertones, and many, many swear words. While this may offend some, it also creates a great energy around the film that had a sold-out audience in Silver Spring clapping and laughing hysterically the whole time at whatever came up on the screen.

"Yard" plays on exaggeration; the characters are poorly developed but definitely not overstated. Rock plays the same role he always does, as a wise-talking sidekick who is seemingly always trying to audition for another HBO special. But even more than Rock, it is the second-tier actors as the football-playing cons that make the flick so hilarious and manage to steal scene after scene.

Dalip Singh plays a mammoth running back who has no purpose but to smash the opposing players, with hilarious effects. Terry Crews ("White Chicks") plays Cheeseburger Eddie, who inexplicably always has McDonald's food on him wherever he goes. Even Nelly and Michael Irvin play convicts, and actually come off quite well.

Irvin and Nelly are just the tip of the cameo iceberg. Not even counting Crews, an established actor who also played six years in the NFL, "Yard" is full of ex-athletes, with only Irvin coming off solidly in his role. Former linebackers Bill Romanowski and Brian Bosworth play Allenville prison guards, as do former wrestlers Goldberg and Steve Austin. ESPN's Chris Berman announces the final game between the guards and cons.

All the characters come off exaggerated, which is the basis of this film's hilarity. Tracy Morgan plays the effeminate homosexual prisoner, a role that had the audience rolling at a couple points in the film.

Even if Sandler doesn't come off as believable as an NFL quarterback, washed-up or not, the final game itself is a thrill. The over-the-top collisions and bodily-function jokes that accompany the game add to the lowbrow hilarity of "Yard."

What "Yard" lacks in original plot and character development, it more than makes up for in absurdity, and as a by-product, sheer belly laughs. If you like Sandler or Rock, you will have a great time at this movie. Fans of the original might be chapped that the new version is not at all faithful to the old "Yard." But teens in particular who may not remember the 1974 movie should love this movie, full of belly-laughs and entertainment from start to finish.

"The Longest Yard" (109 minutes) is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, violence, language and drug references.

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  • lil j (View Email) on June 5, 2005 at 3:38 PM
    nelly i am a big fan of you some day i want to be like you
  • Loved It on June 5, 2005 at 8:40 PM
    that is the best movie every. People need to go check it out
  • 1 on June 6, 2005 at 12:11 PM
    Dis da besttest movie evar
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