Adam Sandler can't support the shoulder pads in The Longest Yard, plus readers choose the oddest cinematic couplings.

Running thoughts on movies and their makings.
May 27 2005 8:13 AM

Toy Boy

Adam Sandler can't support the shoulder pads in The Longest Yard, plus readers choose the oddest cinematic couplings.

Sandler playing football? Oy vey! Click image to expand.
Sandler playing football? Oy vey!

What is Adam Sandler's shtick? It's hard to pin down. It's foggy, but also aggressive. It's aggressive and passive-aggressive, like a prince acting like an imbecile to drive his courtiers crazy. It has proven more elastic—in The Wedding Singer, Punch-Drunk Love, and 50 First Dates—than anyone could have imagined, but it doesn't stretch to playing a disgraced NFL quarterback in a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds/Robert Aldrich prison-football picture The Longest Yard (Paramount Pictures), about a bunch of cons who take on their sadistic guards in a game that turns into a violent (and funny) free-for-all.

The new film, helmed by frequent Sandler director Peter Segal, is a copy, beat for beat, of its predecessor, except that Segal—in the "here-ya-go-groundlings!" Sandler house style—hits the jokes much, much, much (much) harder. What was already a raucous put-on, a goof on Aldrich's brutal action movies, is now a hyperbolic, gross-out cartoon, with a cast of enormous ex-football stars (plus the 7-foot-2-inch Indian wrestler Dalip Singh) only adding to the air of facetiousness. Big guys in the original are now very big guys; Bernadette Peters' beehived zombie is now a horny, drag-show Cloris Leachman; and on and on. It hits its marks and will make a lot of money (it's a good Star Wars tonic), but it doesn't have Reynolds' twinkling machismo to hold it together.

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Sandler's physique isn't the main problem, although he can't pull off the opening sequence: Cosmo centerfold Reynolds really looked like a bored jock boy toy for a glamorous actress, while Sandler comes off as a weird slacker jerk who planted himself on her couch and wouldn't budge. (As the movie star who likes showing him off, Courtney Cox seems delusional.) The bigger handicap is Sandler's temperament. Football is not a sport for Jewish passive-aggressives, and so the central joke has no kick (or tackle). 

As the sadistic chief guard, William Fichtner has those amazing icy blue eyes and a frosty elegance—it's too bad he drops out of the picture (and gets a bogus redemption scene). Chris Rock is in there recycling himself as Caretaker: In movies, he's getting stale fast. Far more magnetic is the rapper Nelly, who seems comfortable in his acting debut, with the air of someone who knows he has the stuff to cross over. Maybe the best thing is Burt Reynolds in a supporting part as the inmate coach. It must have been humiliating on all sorts of levels, but I'm sure the paycheck was good and he walks through it wryly, as if aware that the joke that was his celebrity is now the joke that is fate.

Yoda, my love. Click image to expand.
Yoda, my love

Your mission: In my review of Star Wars: ROTS, I ventured that the mere sight of Samuel L. Jackson hanging with Yoda was the biggest visual disconnect in the history of cinema. Reader Larry J. Rothstein countered with a fat, wattled Roger Moore bedding Grace Jones in his last Bond picture, A View to a Kill. I smelled a Slate contest. ... I asked for two actors (or an actor and an object) who/that cannot be reconciled and threw you out of a movie. To make things more interesting, I also asked for two people who shouldn't have fit together on screen but had some strange alchemical connection anyway.

Well, folks, I'm not sure that anyone topped either Samuel L. Jackson & Yoda or Roger Moore & Grace Jones as the All-Time Cinematic Disconnect champions. But there was a surprise consensus favorite. By a startling majority of readers (and, remember, I nominated no one—these examples arrived without prompting), we have a Disconnect Titan:

The Woodman.

Yes, as Matthew Drake put it, "Woody Allen and EVERY WOMAN who has played opposite him romantically since 1977."

Among the entries:

"Woody Allen & Helena Bonham Carter in Mighty Aphrodite. The combination of her raw, earthy, slightly decadent persona and his neurasthenic fidget of a sportswriter just gave me the willies. Not even vaguely believable as a married couple." 
—Helen Rubinstein

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