‘The Longest Yard’ remake can’t match the original classic

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Nelly (left) and Adam Sandler star in ‘The Longest Yard’

The trend of Hollywood to continue to remake successful films is truly disturbing, particularly in light of the inability of these remakes to come close to the quality of the originals. The Longest Yard is the latest in this series of remakes and for whatever reason it doesn’t even begin to emulate the classic film being remade. It goes in a different direction entirely.

In the original, Burt Reynolds played Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a has-been NFL quarterback who had once been the league’s Most Valuable Player. In the remake, Adam Sandler has been miscast as this character, but the character has been changed. The Crewe played by Reynolds was a jerk, with a very jagged edge to him. Sandler’s Crewe lacks this edge and while both are has-been drunks being kept by wealthy women, they are even different types of drunks. Reynolds’ Crewe is a mean drunk, spiteful and angry at the world. Sandler’s Crewe is a mirthful drunk who laughs at himself and everyone around him, especially his angry girlfriend (Courtney Cox).

In both films, Crewe takes the expensive auto of his girlfriend without permission and she reports it stolen, and in both cases, Crewe destroys it, although the way in which they do is different and again shows the difference between the two. Reynolds dumps the auto into the bay, while Sandler manages to have half a dozen police cruisers smash into the car while he is in it, although he escapes unscathed.

The prison settings are different, a Florida swamp in the original and the dry Texas outlands in the remake. The late Eddie Albert was brilliant as Warden Hazen in the original and James Cromwell is not up to the task in the remake, although he gives it his best effort. Warden Hazen has pulled strings to get now inmate Crewe assigned to his prison in order to serve as a consultant to the semi-professional football team made up of prison guards. The head guard, Captain Knauer (William Fichtner in the remake, Ed Lauter in the original and both are good), runs the football team and he doesn’t want any interference from either the warden or an NFL has-been. Of course the Warden isn’t happy over this turn of events and he instructs Captain Knauer to convince Crewe to see the light and assist the team. Once this happens, Crewe suggests that what the team needs is a tune-up game before the season begins and Warden Hazen has a brainstorm: a game between the prison guards and the convicts.

When you are seeing a remake and you’ve seen the original, you expect the classic moments from the original to be either done again or improved. Cloris Leachman replaces Bernadette Peters as the warden’s secretary and Crewe’s fifteen minute encounter with her is there, although certainly not in the way it was in the original. The football game covered 47 minutes in the original and in the remake it only uses 36, but the remake’s football sequences are some of the best moments it has.

Nelly portrays a running back and his performance is probably the best in the film. I haven’t mentioned Chris Rock’s reprisal of Jim Hampton’s portrayal of the pivotal role of Caretaker, simply because he didn’t do anything worthy of mention. On the other hand, Burt Reynolds was pretty good in the beefed up role of Nate Scarboro, originally portrayed by the late Michael Conrad.

There are a few humorous moments in this film and the classic lines are still there, but you’d be far better off renting the original The Longest Yard from your local DVD store and watching it in the privacy and comfort of your own home. You’d save a few bucks, too.

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