The Longest Yard

 

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Movie Review: The Longest Yard

Hollywood has always treated pro-wrestling like a red headed step child. Dirk Benedict in Body Slam? The David Arquette bomb Ready to Rumble? Slammed!? Football on the other hand has gotten some damn good movies. I still have tears watching the father see Notre Dame for the first time in Rudy. Amy Smart with a whipped cream bikini in Varsity Blues. Goldie Hawn rapping to end Wildcats. And of course, the greatness that is Debbie does Dallas.

Okay, maybe they weren’t all that good, but one of the better pigskin movies was the classic The Longest Yard. Burt Reynolds, during the height of his popularity, played Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a former NFL quarterback sentenced to prison. The warden of the prison was perfectly played by Eddie Albert, the former Green Acres star in a huge heel turn. The prison had a semi-pro football team using the guards (some of which were legit former NFL’ers such as Ray Nitchske and Joe Kapp) and they played a game against the cons, quarterbacked by Reynolds. This is a movie worth going out of your way to see.

Last year, when I found out that not only was The Longest Yard being remade, but using pro-wrestlers such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Dalip “Giant” Singh and Bob Sapp, I knew I would be there opening night.

On to the movie!

SPOILER WARNING: This review will most likely cover many specific plot points, so if you don’t want any of the movie ruined, stop reading here.

The part of Paul Crewe is now played by Adam Sandler. In the first version of the Longest Yard, Crewe was shown choking his girlfriend and recklessly endangering a bunch of people on the road by driving drunk. Shockingly, domestic violence isn’t nearly as accepted in the new Millennium, so Sandler’s Crewe merely locks his rich girlfriend in a closet before taking out her expensive car for a joyride. This version of The Longest Yard is star studded as Crewe’s girlfriend is played by an un-credited Courtney Cox, while one of the officers that pulls Crewe over is ESPN’s Dan Patrick. Crewe continued his drunken car chase, ending with him quickly putting on the brakes and causing a gigantic pile-up of police cars. With many tweaks, the new version of the Longest Yard still stayed amazingly close to the original. For instance, Captain Knauer (played by the Perfect Storm’s William Fichtner) tells Crewe that the warden will be asking for Crewe’s help on the football team, and that he expects Crewe to decline, just like the original version. In fact, it was this scene in which the audience first gets a glimpse of prison guard Stone Cold Steve Austin, as he walks in on Knauer beating the crap out of Crewe, smiles, and walks away.

After spending some time in “the hot box,” Crewe agreed to help the warden with the guard’s team, advising the warden they would need a tune up game, claiming that Division I football teams open up the season against a Divison II patsy to raise their confidence. The warden agreed, and said he would give Crewe a month to put together a team of convicts to play the guards. This led to what I felt was the best part of the movie, putting together the con’s team. Crewe was befriended by Caretaker (played by Chris Rock), and the two begin recruiting players. One of the first signed onto the team was none other than K-1 superstar Bob Sapp, whose character Switowski was strong as an ox, but only half as smart an one. Also notable in the first collection of players is Nicholas Turturro (of NYPD Blue and a celebrity appearance at WrestleMania XI), who steals the movie with several side splitting scenes. Turturro’s character Brucie is completely inept at football, but wants to play more than anyone else.

If you want Michael Clarke Duncan, then WAIT
for Michael Clarke Duncan. Don't cast Bob Sapp!!!

The majority of the blacks in the prison didn’t want to play because they feel Crewe, who was kicked out of the NFL for allegedly shaving points off a game (and they made a point early on in the movie to show that it was never proven), will sell out the cons as well. This opinion is primarily expressed by Deacon Moss, played by former NFL receiver Michael Irvin. Crewe and Caretaker continued to try and get players from the prison, including Bill Goldberg, whose notable character trait was that he had a big penis. Seriously.

No, seriously.

Crewe also spent several scenes trying to recruit Dalip “Giant” Singh (pro-wrestler from New Japan Pro Wrestling), and eventually convinces Singh after playing, get this, ping pong with the man. WWE fans need to watch this film to realize how much the WWE has completely forgotten how to portray their larger than life wrestlers, as the movie always makes it seem like Singh is seemingly ten feet tall, just by its camera shots. I remember when Matt Morgan was brought up to SmackDown the first time, and you couldn’t even tell the guy was tall considering they put him in with a team that included guys like the Big Show and Nathan Jones. Crewe also was approached by Nate Scarborough ) played by Burt Reynolds) about being a coach on the team. The team realized early on they needed some speed, as Crewe was getting destroyed by the defense, so they went back to recruit the black players.

P. Diddy's weight training is finally paying off. Watch your back, Marc Anthony!

In what I felt was a great scene, Crewe challenged Deacon Moss to a one-on-one basketball game. If Crewe lost, he agreed never to bother the group again. Throughout the match-up, Crewe was given cheap shot after cheap shot by Moss, but refused to call a foul. With the game tied up at 10-10, Crewe cleanly stole the ball and hit a lay-up, but Moss called a foul and quickly jammed the ball into the hoop for the win. Moss told Crewe to get his ass of the court, but before Crewe left, Earl Meggat (played by rap star Nelly) agreed to join the con’s team. Meggat said Crewe was a man for taking the beating him did, and respected that. Later on, in the library, guards Kevin Nash and Steve Austin tormented Meggat for being on the football team. Besides knocking books on the floor and making Meggat picking them up, Austin tried to bait Meggat into attacking him by repeatedly calling Meggat a n---er. Meggat refused to flinch, and this was all witnessed by Deacon Moss. In what I felt was the funniest scene of the entire movie, Deacon Moss led the blacks down to the con’s practice and Brucie said, “well, there goes any chance I had of playing!”

With a full team, the film then went into showing the con’s practices through a montage, including them switching Kevin Nash’s steroids (in a bottle marked “steroids”, natch) with estrogen. Nash actually had several laugh out loud scenes during the latter part of the movie as he started to act out his feminine side. Nash is just a damn funny guy, as shown in his Torch Talk with Wade Keller, and his charisma really comes across in the Longest Yard. One of the only truly serious moments of the film came as Caretaker was killed by one of the fellow prisoners, who had been spying on the cons for the guards. Crewe was able to motivate the team by getting them to win one for the Gipper, so to speak, and that Caretaker’s last gift to the team was a full set of Mean Machine uniforms, seemingly straight out of the XFL.

When it comes time to the big game, the movie is paced brilliantly, as there is never a chance for the audience to get bored. The game is also filmed in such a way that it feels “real,” but also includes a sort of Matrix-like bullet time filming to nice effect. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have players doing whacky Crouching Tiger-like jumps, but some plays do alternate between running a play in real time, then slowing down when a player, such as Meggat, makes a nice cut on the field. The hits and tackles in the Longest Yard are also some of the best in football’s history on film. Poor Stone Cold Steve Austin’s character is taken out of the game after a particularly nasty hit, leading to an incredibly hilarious scene of Kevin Nash crying over the fate of his fallen teammate.

What really impressed me with this version of the Longest Yard was how it handled the second half of the game. Like the original, Crewe was threatened by the warden to throw the game, or be held responsible for the murder of Caretaker. Crewe agreed, but asked the warden to “coast” once they guards got a 14 point lead. The warden swerved Crewe though, and told the guards to go extra rough once they got the lead, taking out several of the cons, including Brucie, who filled in for quarterback once Crewe benched himself. Crewe had enough of that shit, and put himself back into the game, this time with the intention of leading the cons to victory. Crewe’s teammates were still pissed off and refused to block for him, causing Crewe to get leveled by the defense. Crewe sucked it up, and eventually ran for a first down on fourth and twenty two, calling a time-out afterwards. Crewe got the team together and said that he had never said it aloud before, but he did shave points off that NFL game. Crewe said it was because he was in a bad way, with some even worse men, and that afterwards he felt like he should have just let them kill him instead of letting his team down. Crewe said that he wasn’t going to go through that again, even if it meant spending more time in jail. The team accepted this, and fought their way back.

The guy who plays gay Brucie with
the guy who plays gay everything.

The original movie had the cons down by five, and they scored a touchdown of the final play of the game to get the win. The new version had the cons down by seven, and they got a touchdown in the final moments thanks to a fumblerooski play, called by Nate Scarborough. Down by one and time for one last play, Crewe asked the Mean Machine if they wanted to play for a tie or go for the win. What do you suppose they chose? In an innovative spot, Crewe walked back towards the sidelines while everyone huddled up, screaming at Scarborough that the play would work. While this was going on, Deacon Moss lined up behind the center, took the snap and threw the ball to Crewe, who just barely got the two point conversion after a great tackle by guard Bill Romanowski.

"YOU GOT MY HORSE STEROIDS?!?!"
"THAT DEPENDS, YOU GOT MY CRACK?!?!"

Overall Thoughts: I think that the Longest Yard is as good as a fan could ever hope to expect as it pays respect to the original and is hilarious in its own right. The action and story moves along at a face pace, which is quite extraordinary during a time in Hollywood when movies seem to take forever to get from point A to point B. Wrestling fans have got to be pleased that several wrestlers have high profile parts in the film and sport fans in general will enjoy seeing former NFL players such as Brian Bosworth, Bill Romanowski and Michael Irvin in roles that don’t embarrass themselves. Special shout outs go to Tracy Morgan, Chloris Leachman, Kevin Nash and Nicholas Turturro, who take every scene they are in and make them comedic gold. This movie had so many areas in which it could have f---ed everything up, but instead hit a huge home run.



Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.