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Prison Football Double Feature: Gridiron Gang and The Longest Yard

Often, when I pick out what movies Netflix is going to send me, I like to set myself for a double feature. I pick out two movies that are somehow linked (at least in my mind) whether it be thematic, subject matter, genre, or even by actor. (In college, we used to arrange movie nights like this, except we'd pick out four movies and sometimes a food...for example, Tim Curry night--three Tim Curry movies...and curry.) This past weekend, the unifying factor was pretty specific: prison football.

The first one I watched was Gridiron Gang starring The Rock and Xibit. I know that doesn't sound particularly promising, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's a story of a man (The Rock, of course) who arranges a football team in a juvenile detention center, and how being on that team effects the lives of those who participate. It's pretty much your standard sport film--there are montages, there are wins and losses, there's some pretty blatant heart-string-plucking, and everyone Learns A Valuable Lesson. The acting was not going to win any Oscars, but it was acceptable, and no one seemed especially out of his or her depth. Some of the dialogue was kind of cheesy, but that's a fault of many films in the sports genre. Plus, as I discovered as the credits rolled, much of the script was taken verbatim from the mouths of the people the movie is based on--there's clips from the documentary about this team, and some of the things they're saying are line by line what's in the movie. I'd actually be interested in seeing the original documentary, since I'll bet it's fascinating, unfortunately Netflix doesn't seem to have it. All in all, I wouldn't go overboard to recommend this movie, but if you like sports movies, it's not bad.

The second movie was the Adam Sandler remake of The Longest Yard. I wasn't really too excited about this one, since I'm kind of torn about Adam Sandler. I'm very fond of him in some things, but he often just plays Adam Sandler...and Adam Sandler is kind of annoying. However, when he's actually making an attempt to play a character, he is at the very least competant. Also, remakes are kind of tough, particularly remakes of movies as iconic as the original Longest Yard. Luckily, it seems they avoided some of the pitfalls that can make these movies disappointing, and the casting was great, maybe even inspired. The premise is that a former pro-quarterback (Sandler) goes to prison, where the sadistic warden coinvinces him to draft a con team to play against the semi-pro guard team. Sandler obviously played the Burt Reynolds part, but Burt himself showed up to play the wise older con coach (the fact that Reynolds not only agreed but WANTED to be in this movie was definitely a good sign.) Chris Rock played Caretaker, Sandler's sidekick, and he was very funny. The cast was rounded out by a crew of former pro-football players and pro-wrestlers, all of whom seemed to be having an excellent time. I think perhaps that was one of the reason I enjoyed the movie so much--everyone in it seemed to be really enjoying themselves, and in my opinion that can often prop up an otherwise mediocre comedy. Another good thing was that they didn't mess around with the story. The dialogue was updated, and some tweaking was done with the characters, but in general there was no attempt to do anything but make a loving homage to the original. Also, if you get the DVD, make sure to check out the making-of featurettes. They're all really informative, and give an added perspective to the movie that is really interesting. In all, I'd recommend this to those who enjoy football movies or slap-sticky comedies.

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