The Longest Yard
Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds
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
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.