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Thursday, May 26, 2005 09:01 pm

movie review

The Longest Yard

I know there are some film fans out there who don’t like Adam Sandler, but I bet they’d be hard pressed to deny that the actor has a charming affability. He’s kind of like your little brother, the one who always manages to get himself out of a jam because he can make you laugh and you know that, at heart, he’s a good guy. Sure, he’ll never play Hamlet, but, given the right vehicle, there’s no one better.

Sandler’s latest film, a remake of the Burt Reynolds classic The Longest Yard, is such a movie, a popcorn exercise in which the actor’s goofy comic sensibilities are laid over the hard-edged premise of the 1974 original. As you might expect, this film sports a much lighter tone than Reynolds’ version, but it ends up being just as enjoyable.

Sandler plays Paul Crewe, a washed-up ex-football player who ends up in a penal hellhole after causing all sorts of mayhem while joyriding in his girlfriend’s car. Warden Hazen (James Cromwell) pulls strings to have Crewe incarcerated in his penitentiary so that he may coach Hazen’s prison football team, which consists of the institution’s guards, and bring home the championship in the semipro league the team plays in. Initially Crewe refuses, but when Hazen puts the screws to him, he reluctantly reconsiders and suggests that the best way for the players to prepare is to have a practice game to get their confidence up. Hazen loves the idea and suggests that Crewe assemble a team, comprising inmates, to take on his squad of guards.

>The film proceeds predictably — yes, the prisoners form a team; yes, they’re all a bunch of misfits — but it’s not without its pleasures. Many of the gags are inspired, and the final game is exciting. However, the one element that makes the film a winner in the end is the combined effort of director Peter Segal’s cast. As Sandler’s right-hand man, Chris Rock effectively cracks wise throughout, and Reynolds shows up as a longtime con with football savvy. Equally impressive is Cromwell, who oozes a sense of cool menace as well as anyone. Rapper Nelly, as a prisoner with lightning speed that makes him the convicts’ secret weapon, proves that he can hold his own with these screen vets. In the end, The Longest Yard benefits from this team effort and is a successful, if ultimately disposable, piece of entertainment.

Also in theaters this week. . .

Crash [R] A car accident brings together a diverse group of strangers in Los Angeles, forcing them to confront racism. Parkway Pointe

Kicking & Screaming [PG] Soccer coach Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) faces his father Buck’s (Robert Duvall) team. Buck’s ace player is a son from a new marriage. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East, Route 66 Drive In

Madagascar [PG] Animated comedy about a lion (voice of Ben Stiller), a zebra (Chris Rock), a giraffe (David Schwimmer), and a hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). When one goes missing from the zoo, the other three break free, and learn what it’s like to live in the wild. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

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