First of all, blacks. In The Longest Yard, they are universally referred to not as blacks or African-Americans, but as "niggers." Moreover, all the blacks depicted in this film are incarcerated. Of course, after the first ten minutes, the entire movie is set in a Florida prison, so perhaps this last sin is forgivable. But later, during the film's game sequence, all the cheerleaders are portrayed by black transvestites. Not one pom-pom-toting honky in the bunch -- which implies that in prison only soul brothers play catcher. As anyone who's served time can attest, that's a half-truth (at best).
Equally incendiary is the film's depiction of Native Americans, giants and the mentally retarded. Played by ex-University of Washington quarterback and Northeast Seattle Little League umpire Sonny Sixkiller, the lone red man on Reynolds' rag-tag squad of pigskin prisoners is referred to as simply "The Indian." He has no name, just "The Indian." As if real Indians all drink Thunderbird and have no names. Please.
Meanwhile, the giant, played by seven-foot-two thespian Richard Kiel, is called "Samson" and is introduced to the audience lifting a 400-pound dumbbell with chains hanging off of his arms. Earth to Burt Reynolds: Not all giants must be lifted lock, stock and barrel from the Bible. Giants are people, too. Look no further than the brilliantly nuanced Happy Gilmore for a more humane depiction of huge humans. In Gilmore Kiel's character is known as "Mr. Larson," works as a construction-site manager and enjoys attending professional golf tournaments. The message: Giants can be just like you and me, only they're neck-wrenchingly enormous in stature.
While it's hard to find a film that presents mentally challenged individuals as anything more than funhouse 'tards, The Longest Yard lowers the bar to ground level. Here, a nameless 'tard is recruited to the team after Reynolds' character -- an ex-NFL quarterback named Crewe who's forced to recruit a team of convicts to scrimmage against a semi-pro team composed of prison guards -- sees him drooling, mumbling unintelligibly and throwing large bales of hay while on a work detail. This is a crude debasement of entardtainment that even Rosie O'Donnell cleared in the recent made-for-'tardlevision Riding the Bus with Andie MacDowell -- a suicidal performance that should end Stumpy O'Dykelahan's career once and for all.
It is worth noting that The Longest Yard features only two female characters, and that Reynolds treats them both like dime-store hookers. The film opens with a hot, horny housewife running her fingers through Reynolds' tufted chest on a big comfy bed. "Let's get it on, you hirsute stallion," says she. Rather than rise to the occasion, Reynolds inexplicably dons a suede tracksuit, knocks the little lady on her ass with a backhand to the temple, steals the keys to her Maserati and drives it into the Atlantic Ocean.
Eventually the cops catch up to Burt in a bar by the bay and incarcerate him (after the requisite knock-down, drag-out). Not only is he thrown in jail; he must also submit to the indignity of having his signature moustache shaved off.
Later, in the midst of his team's hasty preparations, Reynolds is offered access to the guards' game films for strategic review -- in exchange for bedding the warden's nerdy secretary (portrayed by Bernadette Peters, who is what young people these days refer to as a "hottie"). Thus ensues the film's only empowering moment: ultra-macho Burt Reynolds as the indentured love slave of a not-so-sexy administrative assistant. Furthermore, Peters insists that he finish the job in "fifteen minutes," meaning no time for moustache waxing. Which is cool by Reynolds, because his moustache has already been shorn.
Of course, had Burt put the biscuit in the basket back in the horny housewife's chateau, such systematic emasculation -- and, more to the point, The Longest Yard -- might have been avoided altogether.
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