In small-town Texas, high school football is a religion. The head coach is deified, as long as the team is winning and 17-year-old schoolboys carry the hopes of an entire community onto the gridiron every Friday night. In his 35th year as head coach, Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight) is trying to lead his West Canaan Coyotes to their 23rd division title. When star quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) suffers an injury, the Coyotes are forced to regroup under the questionable leadership of John Moxon (James Van Der Beek), a second-string quarterback with a slightly irreverent approach to the game. "Varsity Blues" explores our obsession with sports and how teenage athletes respond to the extraordinary pressures places on them. Written by
Steven Chea <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Like a number of other reviewers, I though "Varsity Blues" wouldn't amount to much more than "Dawson Plays Football", MTV-style. Well, it's not -- it's actually quite good. It deals fairly realistically with the trials and tribulations of Dawson . . . sorry, Mox (James Van Der Beek), the backup quarterback more interested in "Catcher in the Rye" than in his own playbook, who is forced to become the starter for his team. The movie's filled with cliches: the town obsessed with the football team; the overweight, goofy lineman; the slutty cheerleader with the heart of gold; the arrogant coach; the teacher straight out of an early 80's Van Halen video; etc, etc. Surprisingly, there's enough twisted and wrinkles thrown into these cliches to make the story seem pretty fresh, if not entirely original. You know how the story's going to end, but you're not always sure how it's going to get there, and that's what keeps it interesting.
Van Der Beek is very good, much better that I ever thought I'd give him credit for. Also good: Paul Walker as the original starting quarterback, and Amy Smart as Van Der Beek's smart girlfriend. They played real characters as opposed to stereotypes, and I thought their performances really made the movie. Surprisingly, I thought the weakest link was Jon Voight as the head coach. He was a cardboard villain, no substance to him whatsoever. I kept waiting for the film to explain why he wanted to win so bad, why he'd push his kids with such inhuman cruelty . . . and besides "because he wants to win", an answer was never given. Too bad, although I think this was more the fault of the script than of Mr. Voight.
It's certainly not the best movie ever made -- for that matter, it's not even the best football movie ever made -- but it's still good. It has heart, and most of the performances make this film a cut above most of the "Teen Films" that are out there. A fun rental.
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