Varsity Blues review
Football is king!
Acting is mostly top-notch
Story was pretty good
Portrays what it portrays very well
Camera angles own
Some scenes are kind of boring, though they do have a point
Some characters have a sort of 'if you don't like them now you never will' feeling to them
I'm sure that you've been to (or at least heard of) places where high school football rules everything! Not the NFL; high school football is king! Hell, high school football is the town's religion! The quarterback is the king and the coach is the god, and everyone else on the team, they are at least respected more than everyone else in the area. The parents basically expect everything and more out of their kids, as does the coach, and still expect them to have fun while doing it (which they do). In the small Texan town of West Canaan, that's how everyone lives...well, maybe not everyone; something about a coach drugging an injured player really says something about his motives throughout the entire movie. Enter...Varsity Blues.
The movie stars a guy named Jonathan Moxon (played by James Van Der Beek), the backup quarterback of the West Canaan Coyotes who, when the star quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) gets horribly injured, becomes the main quarterback and ends up being the king of the town. This wouldn't sound so bad...if it wasn't for the coach being a fairly stereotypical 'DO ANYTHING TO WIN' coach. Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight) is that sort of coach. According to the doctors after that game, Lance shouldn't have been playing in the first place (ooh gee, I wonder why...no, seriously, why...but towards the end, you'll be able to figure out why).
Throughout the entirety of the movie, it basically has that 'good kids vs bad coach' feel to it, like the kids want to play a nice, wholesome game of football, but the coach doesn't want that unless they win, which is evident after their first loss. When they first lose, the coach has a huge hissy fit and the team is basically watching. I've heard of people being sore losers, but if this is how you act when you lose a game the first time in a season, you really need anger management pills. What does he do? Insults the players and smashes a couple of things around. Oh, don't forget the part where he gets annoyed when the overweight player Billy Bob (Ron Lester) cries and coach basically throws him out (after a few insults like 'oh cry me a river fatty').
But why did they end up losing a game? Was it because the other team was the better team? Wrong! The team is basically perfect for some unknown reason (must be the training). Actually, it's because the players went to a strip club, got drunk off their asses and were too hungover to play the game the next day (yet they do anyway because... well, it's football, it's the town's religion, go and do it or pack your bags and be prepared to leave).
Anyway, we'll skip to the final game of the movie. The players aren't doing all that well (they're trailing 24-7) because they weren't following Kilmer's plan of keeping the ball (basically, if they keep the ball, they "control the clock" – whatever that means), plus (maybe for once) the other team was better. An injury occurs and during intermission, Kilmer has the doc (I think it is) inject that guy's knee with a needle which basically gets rid of the pain. Mox, Lance and Billy try to stop it, and they do. Eventually, Kilmer tries to get everyone into it, but then nobody goes until he's basically locked in his office. I won't spoil the rest, though it is (or should be) painfully obvious what happens (though how it happens is a bit of a surprise).
Now for something I must mention – from first glance, it looked like another crappy teen movie with all the stupid stereotypes like the "oh so perfect star player with the dashing good looks" as a main character, some fat guy who wasn't all that good to begin with, some slut of a cheerleader being involved for more than just some short cheerleading scenes and a douchebag for a coach, while putting a lot of focus on some stupid love story and a bunch of partying that nobody cares about. Well, those stereotypes are enforced, though not as much as they are with today's films similar to this.
Here's an example for you: Jonathan Moxon (Mox for short if you haven't noticed), as I've mentioned, was the back up quarterback, but when Lance gets injured, he takes over. That's fine and all, but not knowing a single thing about his personality is wrong. He is basically the laid back guy who used to sit back and read some novel (so he was basically a smart guy). Despite being relatively popular, easy to befriend and having a pretty good girlfriend (well, good at first) - Jules Harbor (Amy Smart) – he isn't satisfied with his life. He wants out basically. He can't stand his football obsessed father or his coach (Kilmer). Sounds like the typical "pretty boy star player"? Not exactly, so points for that.
He does develop by the way. His hatred of his father grows and he even goes as far as screaming at him "I DON'T WANT YOUR LIFE!!!", as well as getting admitted into Brown University (though our favourite coach wants to bugger around with it because Mox, apparently, isn't playing right – oh, yeah, not playing it YOUR WAY is the WRONG WAY...love that logic Kilmer, really love the logic – by the way, Mox encourages the team to play differently from what Kilmer wants, just needed to add that in). Not the most developed, but there's development. Most of the pretty boys from today's movies...where is the development? Oh, right, they're usually 1 dimensional, unlike Mox!
Another example: Mox's relationship with Jules going down the crapper because of seductions from some random cheerleader (whose name escapes me) who used to go out with Lance and because Jules (apparently) doesn't date football players (which I found kind of weird as...MOX WAS A FOOTBALL PLAYER! Unless she meant those egotistical football players who feel they have to take steroids and show off all the time, I don't know what she was on saying that), but really, you often find yourself tuning out to these as they aren't that important to the plot, it's all filler no killer, you know that feeling. However, at least it doesn't take up like half the film or even a quarter...more like a fifth of it, which is a good length. If it even comes close to dominating the movie, it has to be worth watching, and it really didn't, so thankfully it went for the time it did.
Next - The fat guy (Billy Bob), for one, is not always seen as the goofy guy who wasn't a good player to begin with. He started as slow and clumsy as well as one hell of a party animal (I mean he freaking pukes in a washing machine [I think that's a washing machine – that or a one-cabinet fridge rotated 90 degrees] and then parties again, and he does it a couple of times in one party scene), but then he shows that he has a heart of gold as well as having some emotions here and there (like when he cries after losing a game and seeing Kilmer lose it completely – I still can't get over how much of a sore loser he is, I mean, NOBODYS PERFECT!!!). His character develops quite well basically, which I can't quite say the same for characters like him in movies similar to this (if they even try that is).
Unfortunately, the cheerleader proudly enforces the whole "I'm a slut, it's not all about love, let me put on my whip cream bikini so you can lick my nipples and *bleep*" stereotype (though I think this is a first for whip cream bikinis). She doesn't really develop much because what you see the first...I'm thinking 5 minutes you see of her...is here throughout the entire movie. No joke.
Same goes for the arrogant coach (Kilmer); if you don't like him the first few minutes you see him, you will not like him at all. He basically expects everything times ten out of players, hell, he forces them to play even if they're sick or injured...I get it, "win at all costs", but Jesus Christ, don't take it THAT literally! But hey, that's what happens when you play for a town that has what you're playing in as a religion.
The actors who play the parts are also good choices. Jon Voight does an excellent job of portraying an arrogant coach, James Van Der Beek does one hell of a job of playing the somewhat reserved and laid-back (who ends up snapping a few times) sort of guy and Ron Lester...if you think he's a bad actor, then I don't know what you're smoking but I don't want some because Ron Lester is probably one of the best actors in the film. I can't quite think of why, but when he's on screen, he's totally believable and he really gets into it. Just epic.
Now to mention the camera angles. They were pretty good. None of them were too far away or too close, and they were always where they should be. Someone going off their nut? They're dominating the screen. During a game? It focuses on the main action, trying to keep it a bit still and not just wobbling like jelly (I hate it when they wobble it when it's easier just to keep it still, unless they're running at a fast pace). There is a bit of wobble, but not crazy and/or on purpose, and it does work well.
Settings are cool enough. There's the football fields for playing football on (obviously), there are towns and inside the shop, and a house that looks all partied out! There are no fake set designs or any of that CGI stuff, it's all real and the items are placed by the people themselves. That's pretty cool too. Overall, great settings.
So what you have are a bunch of characters that either develop or don't develop and are all acted pretty well, as well as a fairly good main story and some decent sub-plots. I don't think there's much else to talk about. Varsity Blues is worth a watch. It cuts the crap and doesn't get boring (except during some scenes where it's just Mox and Jules), and also shows no mercy in keeping you interested. It's basically a must-watch, let's put it that way.
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