After witnessing the death of his mother and father, Conan was made an orphan and worked for his keep. His father was his mentor, the one person who really taught him the meaning of life and the importance of their work. Setting off on a lonely treck, Conan discovers a cruel and unforgiving world, far from the village he grew up in.
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Thus imprisoned in a dusty desert lock-up where the abusive,steroid-pumped guards (all played by wrestlers or former pro football linemen)have their own pigskin league, Sandler is compelled by the nasty warden(James Cromwell) to coach a scabby team of inmates for his boys to beatup on in practice. But for some reason known only to the screenwriter,these practices never happen. Instead, the movie follows the standard BigGame plot, and Sandler (who doesn't have the body mass to be credible asa former football player) recruits and trains the biggest, meanest prisonershe can find, then leads them onto the field himself (with Reynolds' helpas another ex-NFL inmate) for a full-contact finale picked up by ESPN2for a novelty national broadcast.
Unfortunately, once he's in the hoosegow and sobered up,all the bite goes out of Sandler's QB and he is severely upstaged by thecast of crazies (Cloris Leachman is the warden's aged, sex-mad secretary,Tracey Morgan leads the transvestite cheerleading squad) and muscle-boundtoughs (Brian Bosworth, Michael Irvin, Bill Romanowski, Steve Austin, BillGoldberg, etc.). Most of these guys can barely act, but at least directorPeter Segal ("50First Dates") figures out how to use themfor laughs.
What Segal can't seem to do is get a handle on the movie'sbalance of comedy and drama, on one hand relying heavily on race-basedone-liners (ChrisRock plays the joint's resident wisecracker),while on the other trying for moments of poignancy that fall awkwardlyflat. Because "The Longest Yard" takes itself seriously at times,it's harder to forgive the occasional gigantic plot hole -- like the factthat the inmates seem to have access to any room they want in the penalcomplex, even getting into the guards' locker room and personnel files.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.