Saturday, June 4, 2005

Reviews: The Longest Yard and Rushmore

The Longest Yard

Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds
Year: 2005

I went in to this film expecting the worst. I am not a big Adam Sandler fan; he can be funny, but rarely makes an impression. I am also not a sports fan, at all. The last sporting event I watched was the 2004 Olympics, and I can't remember what I might have caught before that. Sports just don't do anything for me. And football is probably my least favorite sport.

So it was with a certain reluctance that I went to see a movie about football. The plot: at a Texas prison, a series of ad hoc contrivances puts Sandler's ex-football star Paul Crewe in charge of a misfit squad of prisoners tasked with warming up the award-winning guard team for their upcoming season. Not encouraging.

However, The Longest Yard was a very entertaining film. It was simple, straightforward, but fun to watch. The actual football sequences were well-executed, probably the best I've seen--which doesn't say much since I don't generally watch sports movies. The jokes were all pretty funny. The performances were competent.

About the only major complaint I have is that--and I wouldn't be a good liberal if I didn't point this out--there were so many stereotypes represented. The warden is a dick, the guards are all racist rednecks, the black prisoners are the best athletes. But the overall message that "prisoners are people, too" is a good one, and if it takes a contrived football game to say that, so be it. That said, it is a little perverse to think of murderers, rapists, and thieves as the good guys; hence, the over-the-top villainization of the guards was probably required.

The Longest Yard was amusing, but I'd recommend you wait to catch it on HBO. Or rent it, if you want.


Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams
Year: 1998

I am way behind the times just now seeing Rushmore. I don't know why it took so long. I've managed to never see a Wes Anderson film until now, which is strange because they seem to be my kind of movies.

Rushmore is the story of Max Fischer, perhaps both the best and the worst student at Rushmore Academy. President or founder of nearly every club and organization at the school, Fischer is an academic failure. When his obsession turns to a young teacher at the school, he goes to elaborate lengths to win her heart.

It goes without saying that I was impressed. Every aspect of the film was well-executed: a smart screenplay with humor and heart, competent direction, and outstanding performances. I was surprised to find that Schwartzman's Fischer was not a particularly likeable character. I was expecting a "hero," however subdued, and was treated instead to a flawed and very naive protagonist, occasionally even something of a jerk. But he was a sympathetic character. None of his flaws stemmed from his actually being a bad person, they resulted from his unusual penchant for obsession.

The strength of Rushmore lays in the fact that for all its subtle absurdity, the story is grounded in reality. The situations Fischer finds himself in, and the feelings he has, are all situations and feelings that we all have, at one time or another. Unrequited affections, embarrassment at family, wanting to hold onto something that should be let go. They are merely exaggerated to amusing proportions, yet without ever becoming campy.

And a prep-school theater production of Serpico is a brilliant idea.



  1. I have liked your reviews so far. Keep it up! Netflix rules no?

    Anyway, are you using a special program to assist with these? The whole five star thing.

    Here comes an un-asked for opinion: I personally have never liked the "5 star" rating system for movies. It just seems too broad for me.

  2. Yes, Netflix is awesome.

    The 5 stars are simply gifs I found online and just uploaded to Flickr, and then I use regular "img" tags to link to them. I treat the stars like letter grades: 5 = A+, 4 = A, 3 = B, 2 = C, 1 = D, and 0 = F. I probably like it being broad because I have a really hard time narrowing it down. Like, did I like Movie A 1/100th better than Movie B? I can't decide, so I just rate them by "class."

    I might like one five-star movie more than another (for isntance, Fight Club is probably my favorite movie, so it's clearly higher than Rushmore) but they're all in that top bracket.

  3. One reason I love Rushmore is b/c when I saw it I recognized a few of the sets where it was filmed, in Houston. The scene where he calmly runs over Max's bike is at Lamar High School (where I went for two years), and the scene in a huge parking lot (flying a kite?) is across the street from my first job (at a Taco Bell). The film is of course hilarious, full of the deadpan humor that Bill Murray does so well.

  4. If you liked Rushmore you should see "I heart Huckabees"

  5. Royal Tenenbaums is pretty soon in the Netflix queue. I'll add Huckabees, though it might take a while to get to.