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The Bland Machine
on 16 June 2010
The second remake of Robert Aldrich's The Longest Yard in just four years is a typical bit of modern product: slick, commercial, soulless and forgettable, going through the motions without ever really making contact. It's better than 2001's Vinnie Jones British version from the same studio, The Mean Machine (the UK title for the original), and it isn't quite as lowbrow as you might expect coming from the director of The Nutty Professor 2, but it doesn't stand comparison with the Aldrich film even as Saturday night entertainment. Adam Sandler isn't the first person you'd think of to play a disgraced quarterback sentenced to three years for stealing and wrecking his girlfriend's car, and as if his physical slightness wasn't enough of a problem, unlike Burt Reynolds in the original, he doesn't have the courage to play unlikeable at the film's beginning. It's not bitterness or self-loathing that gets him into prison, it's high spirits and a smartass attitude that we're supposed to like. That need to be liked extends to the convicts as well, who are all loveable innocents played purely for laughs, which not only takes the danger and semi-realism out of it but also make everything come too easy to the characters even before the star is given a literal Get Out of Jail Free card: they don't really earn their chance to knock the excrement out of the guards and the violence is more cartoonish as a consequence. Worse, the film spoonfeeds the audience, explaining everything in the blandest fashion possible and underlining every big speech with would-be inspiring music because it knows the words and the scene themselves just aren't up to doing it for themselves.
There's talent in the supporting cast, though none of them are called upon to use much of it, with only James Cromwell's football-mad politically ambitious warden and William Finchter's sadistic chief guard making much impression. Original chief guard Ed Lauter turns up briefly as one of Cromwell's golf buddies while Burt Reynolds is roped in like so many stars of superior originals before him to give the film a seal of approval and, for his sins, is sentenced to playing Michael Conrad's role as the broken down old-timer time has forgotten ("I heard you were dead?"). While he's not even remotely deserving of his Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor, he's not exactly bringing his A-game to the party, but it's hard to blame him since nobody else is. It's watchable in its very obvious and undemanding way, but it's just not mean enough by half.
There's a decent extras package - redundant deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers and music video - but you're better off picking up the special edition of the original.