The Longest Yard

The first shot in “The Longest Yard” is of an attractive bikini-clad woman gliding through a backyard swimming pool at a Southern California party. This is the film’s way of assuring us that, despite the ensuing 114 minutes of references to testicles, penises, groins, gay sex and male rape, with hardly a female character to be found, the film is totally NOT gay, dude! NOT GAY!!!

Anyway, this extraordinarily gay movie stars Adam Sandler as Paul Crewe, a former NFL quarterback (yeah, right) who was banned from the sport for shaving points and throwing a game. He’s now washed up, a drunken, delirious idiot, who is sentenced to prison after stealing his girlfriend’s car, driving it while drinking, smashing up several police cars, and leading the cops on a high-speed chase through San Diego. (All of this is played for laughs, by the way, especially the part where Paul drinks a beer right in front of the traffic cop. Make sure your impressionable teenagers who idolize Adam Sandler see this movie several times!)

At the Allenville Penitentiary in Texas, Paul is recruited by the warden (James Cromwell) to put together a football team of convicts to play an exhibition game against the guards as a warm-up for the guards’ real season against other prisons’ employees. Paul figures they don’t have a chance of winning, what with the inferior equipment and minimal practice time. But once he’s assembled his rag-tag group of players — all of whom are eager for a chance to tackle the sadistic guards without fear of reprisal — he thinks maybe a victory is possible after all.

This is a remake of a 1974 film, of course, which starred Burt Reynolds in the Adam Sandler role. (That Reynolds is not chagrined to have his memorable performances of yesteryear re-imagined by Sandler and company is evidence of his decline.) Reynolds shows up in the new version, this time as a former professional athlete, now a prisoner, who helps Paul coach the team. Also showing up are a multitude of real-life football players and announcers, which apparently is very thrilling and perhaps even funny. Also, there is a rapper named Nelly, presumably named after “Little House on the Prairie’s” Nellie Olesen, who plays a very fast prisoner/running back.

Chris Rock is on hand as Caretaker, the prisoner who can get whatever forbidden luxuries you want. Mostly his job is to point out the amusing differences between white people and black people. I am glad he is there, because sometimes I forget. Sometimes I think we are all the same. But then Chris Rock arrives and observes that white people are good at hockey while black people are good at football. And it’s true! We’re so lame.

Sandler is playing his Everyman character here (i.e., he’s using his real voice, not one of his annoying character dialects), with Sheldon Turner’s blunt, hackneyed screenplay setting up jerks and idiots so that Sandler can knock them down, usually literally, but sometimes verbally. These are often cheap, easy jokes, though. Notice the scene where Paul encounters a fat man with a white goatee, dressed as a Southern gentleman. Sandler says, “Looks like Colonel Sanders has been eating his own chicken.” At first you think this is funny. But then you think: Wait a minute. The only reason the guy is fat and wearing a bow tie is that the script called for him to be. The movie put him there JUST so Sandler could make a joke about him.

Let’s say you’re walking down the street with Adam Sandler and you see an obese woman wearing a dress with red, blue and yellow stripes on it. Sandler cracks, “If she’s wearing that, what’s covering up the circus?,” and you laugh because it’s right off the top of his head. But if you later find out that Sandler arranged for that woman to be there, dressed like that, just so he could make the joke and impress you with his wit — well, where’s the humor in that?

The movie, directed by regular Sandler co-conspirator Peter Segal, is fond of such situations, where it sets up straw men so Sandler can light them on fire. (Pity the poor cop who is short and has big ears. Pity more the actor who responded to the casting call for “short actor with big ears,” only to discover his role was as Adam Sandler’s whipping boy.)

The jokes aren’t all cheap, pre-fabricated gags like that, though. Some of them are good old-fashioned kick-in-the-crotch jokes. Or jokes about the posse of gay inmates who dress like women and flirt dirtily with all the other prisoners. Or a running gag where a man’s steroids are replaced with estrogen pills and he starts acting like a woman. Or the hilarious sequence where a prisoner’s ill intentions cause the death of a major character. (Actually, that last one isn’t supposed to be funny. But I laughed no more or less at that than I did at the other parts. I’m just sayin’.)

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with politically incorrect humor. I quite like it, in fact. But I do demand that it be funny. This film seems like it was made by 14-year-old boys, FOR 14-year-old boys. If that’s you, then go and have a good time. But if you’re post-adolescent, there’s nothing for you here.

D+ (1 hr., 54 min.; PG-13, tons of profanity, a lot of weapon-free violence, plenty of vulgarity.)