We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Though certainly not Hollywood’s most versatile actor, Adam Sandler can hardly be called inflexible. Since making a name for himself by repeatedly playing a goofy, temperamental man-child, the comedian has moved on to repeatedly playing a beady-eyed, emotionally subdued smartass. But if The Waterboy was a good example of the former role and The Longest Yard is representative of the latter, the difference is negligible: Either way, the guy sucks at football movies. Sandler’s latest, though updated here and there, faithfully adopts the premise of the 1974 original: After a drunk-driving incident earns former NFL quarterback Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Sandler) a three-year stint in the slammer, prototypically evil Warden Hazen (James Cromwell) puts him in charge of assembling a team of inmates to play a nationally televised match against his own gang of sadistic guards. 50 First Dates and Anger Management director Peter Segal keeps the film’s predictable proceedings plodding along while asking his star player only to provide the occasional quip. That strategy puts Sandler teammates Chris Rock, Nicholas Turturro, and Burt Reynolds (who played QB in the first version) in the unenviable position of working with a playbook that consists almost entirely of tried-and-trite prison-movie clichés. (Dopey-white-boy-meets-thuggish-black/Latino-inmate bit? Ten-hut!) And the action isn’t much better on the field: Aside from a few flashy spin moves, heavy hits, and mile-high jumps over would-be tacklers courtesy of NFL veteran Michael Irvin and rap-star-turned-actor Nelly, the Big Game is a big bore—despite being well beyond any pigskin fan’s scope of belief. Offensive and defensive strategies are completely cast aside in favor of continuous brawling and a bottomless bag of trick plays and gags. Switching a guard’s steroids with estrogen pills? A McDonald’s-obsessed inmate constantly pulling cheeseburgers out of his pants, in uniform and out? Puh-lease. Add a clumsy attempt at drama involving the death of one of the film’s few endearing characters and you’ve got a mess uglier than the flooded-out dirt patch Team Mean Machine calls a practice field. The next time Sandler’s production company finds itself facing 4th and 25 and holding a script like The Longest Yard’s, it should make the smart play: Punt the thing to Jimmy Fallon. —Matthew Borlik