Well, Shawshank it ain’t. Chris Rock ain’t Morgan Freeman, Adam Sandler ain’t Tim Robbins, and bone-crunching revenge football ain’t heartfelt and poignant personal redemption. Although James Cromwell is here as the warden. And so is a big dumb sweet black guy, though he has no miraculous abilities. Oh, wait — that was The Green Mile.
Okay, it’s not that I expected the combination of Adam Sandler and football — two of my least favorite things in the world, and that’s counting trips to the dentist and that crunch that cockroaches make when you squash them — to make for an enjoyable time at the movies for me. But I didn’t expect The Longest Yard to be such a repulsive celebration of everything that’s sickening and ugly and hideous about America today. This is the perfect film for post-Abu Graib America, or at least it’s perfect in that way that demonstrates that yup, the cultural atmosphere of mean-spiritedness and aggression and sheer brutality is pervasive and endemic, just as you feared. I mean, here’s a film about violent offenders who can’t read squaring off against the sadistic beasts who guard them (and who probably can’t read either)… and it’s a comedy! It’s not a comedy because it sends up the dysfunctional state of our justice system or our penchant for barbarous bread-and-circus spectacles — it’s a comedy because guys get hit in the crotch and also some people with penises prefer the romantic company of other people with penises! Laugh, America, till you cry. This is who we are today.
I particularly like — and when I say “I particularly like,” I mean, “oh dear god, how defenseless I feel against such a show of unabashed vileness” — I particularly like how the movie assumes that you’ll be in complete agreement with its conceit that convicted murderers and rapists and armed robbers and other assorted psychopaths (who don’t deny they committed the crimes for which they were convicted) aren’t really so bad; and vicious, savage prison guards aren’t really a problem as long as their charges get their licks in once in a while; but that the real enemy of all things macho and U.S.A.ian are gays and drag queens. Oh, and women with terrifying huge fake boobs (the one here is played by Courteney Cox and her silicone mammaries: 3000 Miles to Graceland, Scream 3) who emasculate men by requesting that they sober up once in a while and not watch so much of the damn football on the teevee, at least not while they have guests. It’s only natural, therefore, that a guy — like, say, former NFLer Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Sandler: Anger Management, Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights) — would, as a response to such emasculation, steal the bitch’s very expensive car and go on a wild joyride through the streets of a major U.S. city.
I particularly like — and when I say “I particularly like,” I mean, “my, how nauseated I am to come face to face with the coarseness of our society so unmasked, and so unashamed to be so” — I particularly like how the movie conveys the idea that to be a disgraced football hero involved in a high-speed chase with cops that plays out on national TV is the dream of every hot-blooded American male. What normal guy isn’t looking for an excuse to insult cops, smash up cars, get buzzed by helicopters, and tell off, on national TV, the woman who has presumably let you fuck her even though you’re Adam Sandler?
The idea of the physically and psychologically unimposing Adam Sandler as a professional football player? It would be hilarious, except it’s the only thing presented with a straight face in the film. What’s supposed to be funny, instead, is how, once he ends up back in the slammer (he was on probation for throwing an NFL game when he went on his joyride), Crewe gets recruited by the warden (Cromwell: I, Robot, The Snow Walker) to coach a team of inmates to play against his team of guards. The inmates are supposed to be the Seabiscuit team, deliberately losing to the guards in order to boost the size of the guards’ dicks or something, but of course — har har — Sandler and his guys want to win, and because this is America, anything is possible, including ESPN2 covering the game and a stadium full of people who think they’re informed because they listen to Rush Limbaugh cheering ’em on. Only make sure you don’t cheer the drag-cheerleaders from the prison! That’ll get you beaten up in the parking lot later. This is America, after all.
There’s the standard “prison guy who can get you anything” here, and he’s played by Chris Rock (Madagascar, Bad Company) with more self-hatred than anyone should have to endure, but it’s another guy who procures McDonald’s hamburgers for anyone who can pay. And that bit of product placement may be the biggest indication that everything about The Longest Yard truly is representative of America today: McDonald’s finds this a fine and dandy venue to promote its products. How long before they start selling Longest Yard Happy Meals? Why not? Burger King and M&Ms are using Darth Vader to sell stuff to kids, which is about one step above using Hitler to sell diapers, so there we are. It’s like we’re living in the Star Trek mirror universe, where everyone is mean and evil and violent and wears a little goatee. Only there’s no way to get home at the end of the episode.