Steffie was away today, doing her internship at KC-101. That left Helaine and me as empty nesters, so we decided to take in a movie. Neither of us wanted Star Wars, nor did Madagascar seem appealing.
We decided on The Longest Yard, the remake of Burt Reynolds’ 1974 movie about a prison football game between guards and prisoners. It was a simple movie with Burt Reynolds as a good old boy up against the good old boy establishment – beating them at every turn. Today the lead is Adam Sandler, with Reynolds in a supporting role as an older former player who becomes a coach for the prisoners’ team (a part not in the original).
We went to the movie thinking we’d see the 5:05 PM show, but arriving at 4:40 we were still there before the coming attractions were over for the show that was advertised to begin at 4:25 PM!
The International Movie Database‘s users (incredible reference site) gives the original 7.1 stars, this 5.7. I’m with them!
Helaine found the beginning of the movie, when the captain of the guards tries to ‘soften’ Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler today, Burt Reynolds then) by gratuitously beating him, a little tough to take. It was unexpected by her, though anticipated by me as (with a few exceptions, like the one previously mentioned) this remake runs pretty true to the original.
So why is the original so much more liked by the IMDB visitors? In both movies there has to be some suspension of belief to buy into prisoners and guards physically playing against each other and the prisoners having enough freedom to practice, as they do. I barely believed the first time, but so many additional over the top scenes and characters have been added that I just can’t believe now.
This is an Adam Sandler movie, not a Burt Reynolds movie (Sandler is one of the many executive producers). I mention that because you might be confused considering all the cameos! There are recognizable sportscasters, football players and at least one pro wrestler (maybe more – I don’t follow wrestling closely).
Some head-to-head comparison is called for.
Adam Sandler has been charming in everything I’ve seen him in recently, but he’s not Burt Reynolds – certainly not Burt Reynolds circa 1974. First, Sandler doesn’t look like a pro football quarterback. Second, he just doesn’t have Reynolds’ ‘eye winking’ charm.
I’m not sure Reynolds still has what he had thirty years ago – but who does?
Cloris Leachman plays the warden’s secretary – sexually drawn to Paul Crewe. The part was originally Bernadette Peters, who was sensational. Now, with the part re-cast as a spinster, I’m not as impressed. With all these people to get on screen there are lots of meatless parts.
Chris Rock plays Caretaker, originally played by James Hampton. I’m a big Chris Rock fan… and a moderately big James Hampton fan (in spite of “F Troop”). I’m not sure Chris Rock is actor enough to play anyone but himself. Nod to Hampton who just looks likeable.
The original warden was Eddie Albert (who died a few days ago at age 99). This time, the part was played by James Cromwell. For my money, Cromwell had the performance of a lifetime as the pathologically evil police captain in “LA Confidential” (one of the darkest, most intense movies I’ve ever seen). He was totally different, while still believable and enjoyable, in Babe. This role was too shallow for him to shine. I wasn’t impressed with Eddie Albert’s job either. Toss up.
The portrayal of effeminate gay prisoners (including former SNL alum Tracy Morgan) was meant to be funny, but struck me as homophobic. Maybe gay people will see the humor differently, though I doubt it.
I enjoy going to the movies. It is a totally different experience than watching a DVD or cable telecast. So, in that regard this was a good thing. But, when you’re spending as much for a movie as you do today, I think you deserve something a little better.