American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Three weeks ago I saw "The Longest Yard," and before I left for the Cannes Film Festival, I did an advance taping of an episode of "Ebert & Roeper" on which I gave a muted thumbs-up to Richard Roeper's scornful thumbs-down. I kinda liked it, in its goofy way. There was a dogged ridiculousness to the film that amused me, especially in the way Adam Sandler was cast as a star quarterback. Once you accept Sandler as a quarterback, you've opened up the backfield to the entire membership of the Screen Actors' Guild.
Now three weeks have passed and I have seen 25 films at Cannes, most of them attempts at greatness, and I sit here staring at the computer screen and realizing with dread that the time has come for me to write a review justifying that vertical thumb, which is already on video and will go out to millions of TV viewers seeking guidance in their moviegoing.
I do not say that I was wrong about the film. I said what I sincerely believed at the time. I believed it as one might believe in a good cup of coffee; welcome while you are drinking it, even completely absorbing, but not much discussed three weeks later. Indeed after my immersion in the films of Cannes, I can hardly bring myself to return to "The Longest Yard" at all, since it represents such a limited idea of what a movie can be and what movies are for.
Yet there are those whose entire lives as moviegoers are spent within the reassuring confines of such entertainments. In many cities and some states, there are few ways for them to get their eyes on movies that can feed their souls. They will have to be content with a movie in which Adam Sandler plays an alcoholic has-been football hero who gets drunk, drives dangerously, is thrown into jail and becomes the pawn in a football game pitting a team of fellow prisoners against a team made up of prison guards. As I sit here, so help me God, I can't remember who got the idea for this game or why. I could look it up, but it's fascinating to watch myself trying to reconstruct a movie that was not intended to be remembered as long as it takes to get to the parking lot. This is how you learn. Through experience.