Long on fun and ballsy action it's sweet to see Burt Reynolds lord over this remake of his 1974 hit about an NFL screw-up who gets railroaded into jail and forced into a killer game of inmates vs. guards. Reynolds, a former Florida State tailback, was born to play MVP Paul Crewe. Not so Adam Sandler. As Paul, the former water boy lacks the pro look. But this isn't docudrama. It's a mean, lean laugh machine. Reynolds eases into the role of Nate, an aging convict doing time and making time to help Sandler learn the ropes at a Texas prison, where the warden (James Cromwell in full sleaze) wants Paul to train the cons and then throw the big game to the guards, led by a vividly sadistic William Fichtner. Sandler is a hoot as hard-ass Paul, disgraced in a point-shaving scam and jailed for stealing a Bentley belonging to his girl (Courteney Cox). At the urging of Caretaker (Chris Rock, scoring touchdowns with one-liners), Paul trains a team that includes Nelly (the rapper can act) and Michael Irvin (the former Dallas Cowboy can act too). Tracy Morgan, in drag, runs the cheerleading squad, prompting the ass-rape jokes you expect in a Sandler flick. In 1974, Reynolds and director Robert Aldrich stuck it to the system with R-rated relish. In the PG-13 redo, Sandler and director Peter Segal (50 First Dates) go broader and sillier, though the murder of a major character is still a shocker. What links the two films in fun and ferocity is the big game, a ripsnorter that is irresistibly entertaining.
From The Archives Issue 367: April 15, 1982