Tongue and Cheek satire and sports movies generally are not exactly two movies genres that you combine together, however Burt Reynolds did not believe that, and as a result he starred in a movie that manages to be funny, poignant, intense, and everything in-between. I really don't know how the writers, producers and directors came up with something that turned out to be so awesome. The Longest Yard is masterful, it is funny, but it isn't a comedy, there is a lot of football but it is more than a just a sports movie, this is a hard movie to classify and maybe that is the reason it is so good.
Burt Reynolds plays a washed up football player who winds up in the slammer for drunk driving. While there the warden asks him to put together a football team to go up against the prison guards, who play in a semi-professional league. The prisoners are an interesting group of misfits and criminals, played perfectly by the various character actors in the parts. Burt Reynolds manages to be a brilliant lead of all of these crazy cons, and is perfect in this part. This movie is great but it doesn't exactly scream out greatness at first. This is a movie where you will be half way through and you will realize this is just a great movie to watch.
Aside from the fact it is just an off-beat movie it is hard to understand why this movie is so good, I don't know why myself, the jokes are not really laugh out loud hysterical, but it becomes apparent the reason this movie is so good is because it really ventured into areas that few films had, and while there are references to racial problems, homosexuality, although very muted, prison violence, crooked law enforcement officials and other issues rarely discussed on screen.
What I am surprised at is that these issues become prominent, and something you heed in the movie, and at the same time the over the top satire merges with this movie perfectly. Even watching a movie like this as compared to other comedies that raise marginally controversial issues like racism, such as Police Academy, Police Academy sort of makes a comedy out of racism and sexism, and to a lesser degree a movie like Caddyshack, but this movie puts the comedy and the controversial issues together, not making them one, but two completely different facets of the movie. Normally when you have a movie that is as intense as this it is hard to have such satirical elements in a movie and be a good movie, but this movie combines the two elements so effortlessly.
This is definitely an underdog movie, in that the prisoners are supposed to lose, they are a bunch of cons that rarely if ever played football, and have no chance going up against a semi-professional team. The characters, too numerous to name make this movie that much better. The movie also is a prison movie, and is successful at that, this is one of those movies, everything just clicked right, and the result is near perfection. One reason to watch this movie is Eddie Albert, as the ever smiling and smugly pleasant prison warden who is the mastermind of the entire affair, he is just perfect here, so meticulously uttering every word to the point that he looks like he is in pain, and he is perfect in the role. James Hampton also has an excellent part as Reynolds' sidekick in prison. This is just an all around great movie excellent in so many different ways.
I watch a movie like this, and I wonder why there are so few movies like this today, movies so offbeat but funny, movies that actually have decent acting, movies that are this interesting, instead of typical silly fare you would get like a dumb teen movie or a dumb action movie. This movie is priceless in a way. When I first heard of the movie I didn't think it would be that good, but when I watched it I realized why it was Oscar nominated and so well thought of. I don't know why it clicked, but it did, and the result is a film definitely worth seeing, and one of the best of the 1970s.
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