The remake of the 1974 classic “The Longest Yard” may not go over too well with purists who are disgusted by the thought of Adam Sandler stepping into the shoes of Burt Reynolds, but the film is nonetheless worthy of attention. This football comedy features both Chris Rock’s quips and surprisingly serious undertones that make it stand out among recent sports comedies.
“The Longest Yard” focuses on Paul Crewe (Sandler), a former All-Pro quarterback who has fallen on hard times and finds himself in prison for drunk driving. When the warden tells him to organize a team of prisoners to play a game against the guards, Crewe has no choice but to agree. Soon, however, Crewe discovers his long-lost love for the game, bonds with his fellow prisoners and leads them in overcoming their shortcomings to defeat the sadistic guards.
Sandler’s performance is unexpectedly sound and, unlike in “The Waterboy,” he commands authority on the football field. Rock’s character is likable too; his jokes are both insightful and offensive, as usual. The ultimate fate of Rock’s character enhances the depth of the story. The film is more serious than one might expect it to be.
The comedy of the film, on the whole, is different from what Sandler has become known for. (Though Sandler crony Rob Schneider does make a cameo). The story has a core theme of redemption that makes it worth watching despite the occasional brain-numbing slapstick sequences. Indeed, at times the comedy gets in the way of this film becoming a bigger movie than it is.
“Yard” translates well to DVD: It’s packed with special features, some of which are actually worth watching. The included deleted scenes are surprisingly good (a rare occurrence), as all seem worthy of inclusion into the final cut. A short making-of documentary titled “First Down and 25 to Life” explains how the film’s producers transformed a west Texas prison into the primary set. The featurette “The Care and Feeding of Pro Athletes” comically portrays the very real challenge of feeding a crowd of enormous, exhausted men that the producers faced on a daily basis.
Some features are totally pointless however. Nelly’s music video “Errtime,” though probably a treat for his fans, is completely irrelevant to the film. The requisite outtakes feature nothing more than the actors cracking up for no apparent reason. An “Extra Points” special shows some of the intricate details of filmmaking that only the more enthusiastic film buffs will care about; the special details behind-the-scenes secrets such as how a CGI crowd was created to fill the prison’s stadium.
Despite some drawbacks (trailers for other films and even a plug for Rock’s new sitcom, “Everybody Hates Chris”), “The Longest Yard” DVD is fun to watch, if only for the film and deleted scenes.
Film: 3-1/2 stars
Picture/Sound: 4 stars
Special Features: 2 stars