Review: “The Longest Yard”

Neither a high or low light of Adam Sandler’s career or remakes in general, “The Longest Yard” nevertheless is an enjoyable little crowd pleaser that goes for broad laughs and yet remains quite faithful to its originator. After various films of late that have bended more towards either more mature dramatic fare (“Punch Drunk Love”, “Spanglish”) or sappy romantic comedy (“50 First Dates”, “Anger Management”), “Longest Yard” is like the Sandler style comedy of old and yet paradoxically contains both more maturity and more bite than usual even if it still goes for the usual easy laughs.

A lot of that is due to its reliance on the old material. Fans of the 1974 original and recent British remake “Mean Machine” will feel quite at home with various bits here, some scenes in particular are almost direct lifts from the older films. Yet the movie goes for a cleaner and more broader appeal, and is helped along by a strong supporting cast of characters including Chris Rock doing his usual wise-cracking schtick and a colorful collection of teammates.

Even the ‘straight’ characters like Cromwell’s gruff warden and Fichtner’s sadistic guard are slightly better than you’d expect for this kind of film, and Reynolds of course lends strong understated support that balances well with Rock’s brashness. Kudos must go to the few ladies of the film including Cloris Leachman’s hilarious turn as an over-sexed secretary, and an amply bosomed Courteney Cox cameoing as Sandler’s gold digging wife. Real life footballers and wrestlers turn up in small roles as well.

The pacing is tight and moves quite quickly along without any real slow patches. One may have difficulty buying the idea of Sandler being an ex-pro footballer but the film itself doesn’t try too hard to be particularly credible, rather embracing the fact that it is formula by design. The football scenes are fun and shot well enough to keep one engaged and even some of the more predictably dated jokes like the cross-dressing cheer line still yield a laugh.

Sandler and Director Peter Segal continue to improve each time out of the gate with their comedic efforts, this being their smoothest yet. There’s no grittiness or darker subtext like the original, but it actually does a better job of balancing its tone and makes such things as the second act twist actually quite shocking. The score is filled with strong familiar rock tracks of the last few decades that fits with the film’s action.

The downside is with such an adherence to its progenitor, much of this feels like old hat and it is. Aside from that one surprise, everything else follows to code right down to the letter. This is hardly challenging or particularly clever material, and its not as inspired or laugh out loud funny a comedy as say last year’s hilarious “Dodgeball,” yet its a good cast delivering some good laughs in a light-hearted but fun way. Just because its fast food, doesn’t mean it can’t taste good.