“The price is wrong, bitch!” “Cholrophyll! More like Borophyll!” I grew up on Adam Sandler’s comedies, which basically have the same plotline: manchild grows up. Most of the time, this plotline has the romantic interest: “That Veronica Vaughn is one piece of ace!”
The Longest Yard differs. Granted, it’s a remake of that 1974 classic starring Burt Reynolds, but I’m glad Happy Madison didn’t take creative license on that. It’s been a long time since I saw the original, but I saw this version selling for $2 at Track One, an old railroad station in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey that was converted into a store that sells used books, CDs, DVDs, even cassettes. Two dollars for this piece of cinematic comfort food? How could I not?
Adam Sandler plays disgraced quarterback Paul Crewe, who starts the film coupled. Essentially, he’s the boy-toy of a fashion designer, Lena (well-played by Monica Chandler, err, I mean, Courtney Cox). He had lost his career over a point-shaving scandal. One night, after a customary tiff, Crewe steals Lena’s car, gets pulled over, speeds away from the cops, and causes a multi-police cruiser pileup. As a result, he’s sentenced to three years in prison.
The warden in a Texas penitentiary takes note of Crewe’s football prowess and arranges to have him serve his time there so he can serve as a “consultant” for the guards’ football team. He does so, and puts together a team consisting of his fellow inmates. During the process, he learns to be a team player, and there’s a notable quote.
At one point, he tries to get his players better conditions under which they can practice. The warden responds, “You never cared about anybody before.” Crewe’s line: “I guess I found that sense of family I’ve been looking for.” No romance involved (although the prison sex jokes are rampant throughout the film).
And that’s what it’s all about. The film follows the typical Sandler arc: manchild grows up. At the film’s onset, he’s a self-centered degenerate. Prison actually does rehabilitate him in the sense that he’s able to put his teammates ahead of him. It’s tough getting there. During the climactic game between the inmates and the guards (during which the inmates enact severe violence on the guards for their abuse), the two teams are tied. At intermission, the warden threatens Crewe that if he doesn’t throw the game, he’ll have him framed for the murder of his best friend, Caretaker (played in typical high-energy fashion by matrimaniac Chris Rock). At first, he complies, and when that feeling of guilt eats away at him, he redeems himself, even if it means spending the rest of his life behind bars. No points for predicting the team wins the game or for guessing that the guard who was in on the frame-up tells Sandler he’ll back him up.
The movie is sloppily executed, but it’s the cinematic equivalent of a good slice of pizza. Tasty, enjoyable, but the next day, you’re thinking about a filet mignon with au gratin potatoes. And if you’re icked out by those romantic tropes, it’s a good watch.