If there's one thing that's inevitable in the current movie making world, it is that remakes are certain. Remakes sometimes come in the form of shot for shot flattery like Psycho, re-imaginings classics like a couple of recent Tim Burton flicks, and then remakes of movies that some consider classic, but other consider junk. As a result of that, the remake itself will fall into a couple of different opinions from its viewers. The latest Happy Madison production, The Longest Yard, falls into the third category, which is a remake of a movie that some have never seen and some probably won't know the existed had it not been for the preview of the release of the DVD.
The Longest Yard opens with Paul Crewe (the always classy Adam Sandler), driven to drink by his demanding girlfriend (a busty Courteney Cox in an un-credited role), and his past football play as a point shaver, hopping in a Bentley and leading police on a chase which doesn't end well for the gorgeous car. Crewe finds himself sent to a maximum security prison run by a football loving Warden (James Cromwell), whose guards, suspiciously looking like professional wrestlers and football players themselves, play in amateur leagues.
The Warden lobbied to have Crewe attend his prison for one selfish reason, and that is to help propel his team to the top again; and who better than Crewe to offer ideas on how to improve his team. Crewe initially is hesitant to help with training the team, and then offers up one idea which the Warden likes a lot, and that is to have the team play a sandbag game, that is one that all but guarantees a win for your team, which will cause a huge moral boost leading into the regular season.
Crewe is tapped with then assembling a ragtag group of inmates to play against the guards, and in typical sports movie fashion the team starts out not even knowing what a button hook is, or even how to catch a ball. But with the help of the hilariously cast Chris Rock as Caretaker, Crewe is able to recruit much more talent like Michael Irvin, Bill Goldberg, Terry Crew, Bob Sapp and of course superstar running back Nelly.
Burt Reynolds, not being content with being in only one version of The Longest Yard, appears this time as Coach Nate Scarborough who, along with Crewe, take this group of convicts and makes them a team of football players, who want nothing more than the chance to take out some physical frustrations on the guards who've inflicted so much pain on them in the past.
I found myself actually enjoying this movie a fair amount thank to the banter that Rock and Sandler had, but I do have a soft spot for Rock's comedy and a guilty pleasure in some of Sandler's acting as well. The pacing of the first two thirds seemed slightly off, but the third act packed some nice action with the big football game taking complete control of the film. Peter Segal did a great job shooting the game, and even enlisted the help of the videographers of NFL Films to help get the game as authentic looking as possible, and that really shines through here in the presentation.
The Longest Yard is shown in an anamorphically enhanced widescreen format (16:9). The overall color palette of the movie was slightly subdued for the first two thirds of the movie as it took place mainly in the dimly lit prison or in the dusty practice field that the Mean Machine had to play on. The final act was in a slightly more bright and colorful football stadium, where the colors had a better chance to show themselves, and when they did they were overall quite sharp. I personally did not notice any artifacts or pixelation.
Three audio options are included, two channel options are available in both English and French, and the sole Dolby Digital 5.1 option is the English option. With a driving hip hop soundtrack expect your woofer to be pumping out some harsh base, and also kick in quite sharply when the crunching hits of Goldberg or Steve Austin are shown onscreen.
Looking at the extras list it seems like quite a loaded package, but as you actually sit down and watch the extra content, it becomes slightly disappointing. There are really two decent featurettes included that are actually fairly interesting, one over 20 minutes long that dives into the movie itself and talks with a lot of the cast and crew, and talks about making a movie in a prison. The other a shorter feature on what it takes to feed a cast of high powered athletes. It's actually amazing to see the amount of food these guys can pack away, three chickens in a sitting, and what looked to be at least a 36 ounce steak. But to keep the physique of some of these guys, I imagine it takes a lot of work and a lot of calories to keep in top shape.
A slew of deleted and alternate takes are included, all with optional commentary by director Peter Segal. He explains why some were justifiably cut. A section on what could have been a great bonus about some of the special effects shots in the movie called Extra Points falls flat in its short running time and lacking amount of detail included about any of the scenes other than "we needed a shot here with a crane, then transitioned into computer graphics". And the always entertaining gag reel is also included, with a couple of good goofs that the cast makes.
One music video for Nelly's song "Errtime" is included, and a montage of crunching gridiron hits set to the P.O.D. song, Here Comes the Boom.
For someone who is immediately biased about seeing a remake of the Burt Reynolds film, chances are high that you'll be disappointed in the Sandler remake. But for someone who comes into this looking at it as a standalone movie, and is willing to give it a shot, you might actually find yourself entertained. I for one got a kick out of almost every scene where Rock was included, as he kept his brand of comedy flowing quite well and surprisingly it mixed in fairly well with the Sandler style.
I'll admit that I haven't seen the original version of the movie that this was based on, and before watching this my expectations were fairly low, but I found the movie to actually hit the mark on a lot of the jokes and I chuckled while watching it more than once, usually thanks to a Chris Rock moment however. Based on the fact it made me laugh more than most movies in recent memory, I'm going to recommend this movie.