If there’s one good thing I can say about The Longest Yard (the 1974 version with Burt Reynolds, not the 2005 remake with Adam Sandler), it’s that it starts off excellently. Watching the charismatically violent ex-quarterback Paul Crewe (Reynolds) coolly outracing scores of police cars through the city, then still having it in him to fight a pair of cops while drinking at a bar, it never once crossed my mind that I would literally almost be bored to tears by the time the film was finished. That’s how convinced I was that it would be great, and that’s how painfully dull it actually wound up being.
The plot is that Paul was obviously kicked in jail as a result of the above crimes, and now has to use the prisoners around him to form a football team, which will play against the team formed by the prison’s cartoonishly evil guards. OK, we all know how this is going to end, but that was also the case with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Was Scott Pilgrim entertaining enough for me to forgive its slightly formulaic conclusion? Of course. Is that the case here? Sorry, but no.
After that riveting opener, The Longest Yard moves at such a dreadfully slow pace (not at all helped by the excruciating 2-hour runtime) that I’m quite frankly baffled as to what it’s supposed to be. It’s far too tedious and scattered to be good comedy, yet too flat and uninvolving to be good drama, even when it tries tackling—gasp!—racism. Not quite realizing this, the film halfheartedly tries to be both at once, but falls right on its face, mainly because none of the characters are worth caring about in any way, shape, or form.
Even Paul, who started out so interestingly, eventually loses every single bit of the personality he once had. Instead of realistically growing or changing as a human being, he’s mostly just a rebellious jerk in one part of the movie, and a blandly motivational sports guy in another part. That’s about as complex as his character gets.
A mid-act twist involving murder is apparently supposed to add some “stakes” to the climax’s big game, but I was too emotionally checked out by then to even remotely care. In fact, this transparently manipulative attempt at being “moving” wound up irritating me a lot more than, you know, actually affecting me or anything.
For most of the films I’ve recently given negative ratings to, I admitted that it was at least “well-made”. Unfortunately, I can’t even do that here. Most of the scene transitions towards the end looked like something from Windows Movie Maker (ironic for a film released decades before Windows even existed, I know), and the director’s attempts at being “stylistic” (split-screens, freeze-frames, a distinct lack of music) were pointless and confusing.
So besides that beginning, The Longest Yard just fumbles in nearly every single way, and is certainly one of the most overrated films I’ve ever seen. Perhaps I’ll make a list of them one day.