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(1999) (James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight) (R)

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Drama: When his team's starter is injured, a second-string, high school quarterback must deal with his legendary, but tough coach, as well as the instant fame that now surrounds him as he leads his team to victory.
In the small Texas town of West Canaan, high school football reigns supreme, and players such as starting quarterback Lance Harbor (PAUL WALKER), huge lineman Billy Bob (RON LESTER), ultra-fast running back Wendell (ELIEL SWINTON) and party animal Tweeder (SCOTT CAAN) are the most revered and popular students in school.

Their coach, Bud Kilmer (JON VOIGHT), on the other hand, is the most powerful -- and feared - - man in town since he's already brought home twenty-two division titles and coached most of the town's adult male population with his no-nonsense, totalitarian ways. Desiring his twenty-third crown, Coach Kilmer knows that Lance will lead his team to victory.

When that senior is sidelined with an injury, however, backup quarterback John "Mox" Moxon, who's more comfortable reading Kurt Vonnegut on the sidelines than buying into the whole town's "football is glory" mind-set, is called into action.

Although he immediately clashes with Kilmer's coaching, Mox leads his team to victory and quickly supplants Lance as the object of everyone's adoration. Much to the dismay of his girlfriend, Jules (AMY SMART), who happens to be Lance's sister, Mox starts to fall under the spell of stardom, and even draws the amorous attention of Lance's cheerleader girlfriend, Darcy (ALI LARTER), who's hoping to ride anyone's coattails out of their small town.

As the final big game approaches and Coach Kilmer puts incredible pressure on Mox to play and win the season's remaining games his way, the young quarterback must decide how to deal with all of that as well as the instant stardom that's changed everyone's behavior -- for good and bad -- toward him.

The presence of the star from TV's "Dawson's Creek," as well as the heavy promotion provided by MTV may cause many teens to want to see it.
For strong language throughout, sexuality and nudity, and some substance abuse.
  • JAMES VAN DER BEEK plays the backup quarterback who begins to fall prey to the town's football-obsessed mentality once he becomes an instant star. Along the way he cusses some and nearly cheats on his girlfriend, but stops before he does anything.
  • JON VOIGHT plays the hard-nosed, totalitarian coach who demands perfection and victory from his players no matter the cost to them.
  • RON LESTER plays the overweight lineman who's pushed to his limits by Coach Kilmer.
  • SCOTT CAAN plays a hard-partying football player who steals a sheriff's patrol car and rides around nude in it with similarly nude girls (and cusses some).
  • AMY SMART plays Mox's girlfriend who dislikes the instant fame and his reaction to it.
  • ALI LARTER plays Lance's girlfriend and head cheerleader who will date and sleep with anyone she believes may get her out of their small town.


    OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
    I'll be the first to admit that I went into the screening of "Varsity Blues" thinking it would be just another run-of-the-mill sports "dramedy" (drama and comedy) filled with standard-issue, stock teenage characters (the smart jock, the sleep to success cheerleader, the party animal, etc...). An hour and a half or so later, I realized my assumptions had been correct.

    However, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised -- but at the same time frustrated -- to find a decent little story regarding a sports-obsessed town and its inhabitants trying to claw its way out from all the mediocrity.

    Unfortunately, instead of allowing that story to develop in a clever or at least intriguing way, this MTV production delivers something akin to a lackluster meeting of "Porky's" and "All the Right Moves." Consequently, the film fumbles what little chance it had at financial or critical success once its targeted teen audience is done with it after a week or two.

    As such, screenwriter W. Peter Iliff ("Patriot Games," "Point Break") and director Brian Robbins (who at least has made a giant leap forward from the awful "Good Burger") simply deliver every cliche and stereotype about teens obsessed with sports and sex in a small, rural town. There are the wild parties (with drinking games and sex), the strip club sequence, the hard-nosed and belligerent coach, the parents who are more concerned with winning than their kids, the wild and rowdy player, the overweight and sensitive lineman, and, well, you get the picture.

    Beyond the fact that we've seen all of that so many times before and that the filmmakers didn't chose to do anything particularly intriguing with any of those elements, the overall big question has to be why this film was ever made in the first place.

    The answer, of course, is in hopes of sucking some money from the high school MTV generation (who will no doubt be drawn by a key cast member from TV's "Dawson's Creek" as well as prodding by that music channel's heavy promotion of the picture). While that makes good business sense (up to a point), it doesn't do much for a film's artistic -- or even entertainment -- potential.

    Although so much of the film involves retreading of previously seen material that you'd think Michelin had produced it instead of MTV (no insult to Michelin intended), a few elements do show signs -- however meager -- of what might have been. While the film's attempt at humor via a younger brother's running "experimentation" with various forms of religions is ultimately unsuccessful, it does give a glimmer of more "sophisticated" material than what's otherwise delivered.

    The film's really about football, however, and it's the moments involving the totalitarian coach and the one player who doesn't kowtow to him where the film occasionally shines and shows the minute potential that's otherwise crushed under the weight of too many stereotypes and sophomoric material.

    Playing the only two characters that stand out from the mediocrity, James Van Der Beek (TV's "Dawson's Creek") and veteran actor Jon Voight ("Enemy of the State," "Anaconda") provide the setting for an epic battle -- at least for a small town -- of wills. Fortunately for the film, a few instances of that nicely boil out onto the screen.

    Unfortunately, however, and despite his ferocious and on-the-nose take of such a coach, Voight -- who's now become the villain of choice in today's films -- can't escape his shallowly written character whose behavior is neither fully explained nor explored.

    On the other hand, Van Der Beek's character is given more depth, and while the actor, for the most part, lends an air of credibility to his character, he occasionally exhibits behavior that's incongruous with the rest of his character (such as taking the guys out for an all-night binge of drinking and ogling at the local strip club the night before a big game).

    The rest of the young and relatively unknown performers, however, fair even more poorly as they inhabit nothing more than stereotypical characters. Although Ron Lester ("Good Burger") brings a bit of depth and compassion to his overweight lineman, Scott Caan ("Enemy of the State"), model Ali Larter and the rest of the cast can't do much with their one-dimensional characters.

    Most likely destined not to last in theaters much beyond this year's Super Bowl, the film isn't horrific and does work on the most basic level with the big game -- despite a goofy inspirational speech by Mox -- satisfactorily wrapping up the proceedings.

    However, its tendency to jettison any halfway decently building moments in favor of the "Porky's" material (obviously to appeal to the male adolescents in the audience), along with its overall mediocrity, familiarity, and wasted potential regarding some interesting issues (sports obsession, dealing with sudden fame, etc...), makes it an otherwise forgettable picture.

    Although there are signs of more intelligence lurking about, they're so obscured by the inane sophomoric material that few will recognize they even exist. As such, we give "Varsity Blues" just a 2.5 out of 10.

    Here's a summary of the content found in this R-rated film that's obviously aimed at teens. Profanity is extreme with more than 40 "f" words and a wide and varied assortment of other words and colorful phrases.

    All sorts of sexually related behavior and nudity occurs during the film. We briefly see a sexual encounter with limited nudity and movement, and another eventually aborted encounter has a student "dressed" in whipping cream barely covering her more private parts.

    Meanwhile, a sequence set in a strip club also features nudity (and, in particular, that of one of the students' teachers), and a scene set in a sex-ed class features the students repeating names and slang term for genitals (both biological and aroused). Other nudity (including a carful of nude students) is also present.

    Lots of drinking among the students (as well as their parents) occurs, including a drinking game, a student jokingly "borrowing" a sheriff's car as well as another shooting football trophies, all while under the influence, although there's no indication about whether they're underage (The police don't do anything to them but tell them not to drink and drive). In addition, one older graduate smokes a joint.

    The coach badgers and belittles his students as he only cares about winning, no matter what the cost. Other bad attitudes are also present, including a cheerleader who will date and/or sleep with anyone whom she believes might be able to get her out of their town.

    Beyond other behavior that may be imitated, the rest of the categories don't contain much in the way of major objectionable content. Even so, and since many teens may want to see this picture, you might want to take a closer look at the content should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home.

  • We see Kilmer and the other coaches injecting some sort of drug into Lance's knee. We then see Tweeder giving Lance some sort of prescription drugs for his pain.
  • Tweeder comments that he's going to "get f*cked up" at a party, and we then see Billy Bob and Jules playing "quarters" (where Billy Bob is losing and must drink shots of liquor and beer). We also see Mox, Jules, and others drinking beer as well (and others feed beer to Billy Bob's pig).
  • A former graduate smokes a joint.
  • We see some of the students' parents sitting around and drinking.
  • Students drink at another party and Tweeder, after receiving a warning from the sheriff about drinking and driving, steals the sheriff's patrol car and drives away drunk.
  • A convenience store owner gives Mox a free six-pack of beer (which we later see that he's consumed most of -- and in public).
  • Some adults drink in a bar.
  • Mox's father drinks from a flask at a football game.
  • Mox and his buddies go to a strip club and drink shots and other liquor. They are later joined by one of the strippers (who happens to be their science teacher), and the next day they appear to have hangovers.
  • We see Billy Bob drinking liquor straight from the bottle (and shooting his old football trophies with his shotgun while under the influence).
  • Tweeder pours beer onto himself after a victory.
  • We hear Billy Bob vomiting into a washing machine (from drinking too much) after also hearing an assortment of belching/stomach rumbling sounds.
  • The coach makes a comment about a player not knowing the difference "between a sneeze and a wet fart."
  • We briefly see what appears to be blood on the hands of Mox's father after he's been hit in the face with a football.
  • Some viewers may see the film's attempts at comic relief (of having Mox's younger brother dressed in various religious garb including wearing a crucifix) as having some of both.
  • Coach Kilmer has extreme cases of both as he only cares about winning, no matter what the costs to his players. As such, he belittles them when needed (according to him), makes them play when injured, and calls Wendell, who's black, "boy" (Wendell also comments that the coach is a racist, but we don't see any clear indication of that). He also threatens to tamper with Mox's academic transcripts (and ruin his college acceptance) if he doesn't play the game the way Kilmer dictates.
  • Not even a day after her boyfriend Lance is injured (and his football future ruined), Darcy starts making the moves on Mox and even admits that she's just trying to ride someone's coattails out of their small town.
  • Since the team and its players are so revered in the town, the coach and some of the players think they're above the law.
  • Mox prepares to cheat on his girlfriend with Darcy, and nearly does, but stops himself before he does anything.
  • We see Billy Bob collapse in class (after having done the same on the football field -- all the result of an acute brain injury).
  • Rifles/Shotguns: Seen in a gun case at Darcy's parent's house.
  • Shotgun: Used by Billy Bob (who's been drinking) to shoot his old football trophies. Mox finally takes the shotgun from him, but then shoots a poster featuring their coach's face.
  • Phrases: "Suck your d*ck," "F*cked up," "Who gives a flying f*ck?" "F*ck you and the horse you rode in on," "Sh*thead," "Sh*t for brains," "Holy sh*t," "Bang" and "Nail" (both sexual), "Bitches," "Makes me wonder if you know the difference between a sneeze and a wet fart," "You skinny ass bitch," "Faggot," "Shut up," "Nuts" (testicles), "Kiss my ass," "Shut up and hold onto your nipples," "Screw up," "Gimp," "Half-assed" and "Lame ass."
  • Some students feed beer to Billy Bob's pig.
  • Tweeder sets up a former graduate where he appears he's going to hit a flowerpot from the man's head with a bat (all to be caught on videotape). Instead, however, Tweeder hits the man, whose eyes are closed, in the crotch with the bat.
  • The students cheer on Billy Bob to drink more at a party (where he's participating in a drinking contest).
  • Lance and Mox's fathers have their sons compete in a football version of William Tell where they attempt to knock a beer can from their father's head with a football pass.
  • Tweeder makes a comment about the sheriff's "mountme" hat. When the sheriff asks, "Mount me?" Tweeder replies, "Not right now, but maybe after a few drinks."
  • Since the team and its players are so revered in the town, the coach and some of the players think they're above the law. As such, Tweeder "borrows" the sheriff's patrol car and drives away drunk (and we later see that he and some girls are nude in the car).
  • We see Billy Bob drinking liquor straight from the bottle and then shooting his old football trophies with his shotgun.
  • None.
  • None.
  • A song (by Van Halen) played in a strip club has the lyrics, "I've got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I'm hot for teacher..."
  • At least 43 "f" words (1 used sexually), 20 "s" words, 3 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck," "pr*ck" and "wiener"), 1 slang term for female genitals ("p*ssy"), 23 asses (1 used with "hole"), 14 hells, 11 damns, 2 S.O.B.'s (and another incomplete one), and 5 uses each of "G-damn" and "Oh my God," 2 uses of "Oh God," and 1 use each of "Jesus" and "God" as exclamations.
  • We see Tweeder's bare butt as he moons his friends.
  • He then comments that he "needs to get some ass" and tells Billy Bob "I'm about ready to f*ck your pig."
  • Referring to a girl's question about the sex of his pig, Billy Bob says, "Of course he's a boy. Look at the size of that sausage."
  • As Darcy kisses Lance (and he runs his hands across her butt) she seductively tells him, "I could be your wide receiver." We later see her sitting on top of a clothes dryer with her legs spread around him. Moments later, we briefly see them having sex (with her still on the dryer) with glimpses of her in her bra, his bare butt and some movement.
  • In a biology class, we see three-dimensional, academic drawings of the male and female reproductive organs. The teacher then has the class repeat the words "penis" and "vagina" several times and then asks the class for slang terms for male erections. Among them are: "Boner," "Sport a wood," "Mr. Mortis," "Rigor mortis has set in," "Jack's magic beanstalk," "Mushroom on a stick" and "Purple-headed yogurt slinger."
  • Getting a ride to a party with Mox (and seriously coming on to him), Darcy changes clothes in the car and we see her in her bra and panties.
  • Tweeder pulls up to Mox in the sheriff's car and gets out, completely nude except for the cowboy hat he uses to cover his crotch (although we see several shots of his bare butt). He then comments that the girls in the car are also naked and ready to "bang" him (we see nearly all of a student's bare breasts as she tries to get Mox to join them). Then, as he prepares to drive off, Tweeder tells them, "Shut up and hold onto your nipples."
  • The sheriff talks about some of the players having pressed their "wieners" against the glass of some club.
  • Mox prepares to cheat on his girlfriend with Darcy (after she invites him over to her empty house) and we see him (and his younger brother) buying some condoms. Mox then asks his younger brother (who's dressed in more religious garb), "Would Allah nail Darcy if he had the chance? I think he would."
  • Mox then goes to her house and moments later she walks out completely nude except for some whipping cream covering part of her breasts and crotch (we also see the side of her bare butt). They briefly kiss, but Mox then stops them from doing anything else.
  • Tweeder says "Bitches are all just panty droppers....You give them percosat...some beers, and their panties drop....and that's very nice." Tweeder then looks down inside his pants (presumably at something on his genitals) and says, "What the f*ck is that?"
  • Mox and his buddies go to a strip club where we initially see a woman showing a lot of cleavage. We then see a stripper rub Wendell's face in her bare breasts. We then see other bare-breasted strippers (with some in skimpy thong-like bottoms), including the guys' science teacher who's initially embarrassed that they've found out her secret profession, but then goes into her normal suggestive dance routine.
  • Later after she's joined them for drinks, Tweeder tells their teacher, "I'm eighteen. I've had sex with other girls before...I've still got wood."
  • None.
  • Mox gets tired of his father putting pressure/attention on him solely regarding his highschool football stardom.
  • Towns, parents and students obsessed with winning at any sport (to the detriment of the players).
  • The message the film gives about women in the movie (Darcy tries to use sex to ride anyone's coattails out of their town, the biology teacher is a partying stripper, etc...).
  • The drinking games and other such activity that occurs in the film.
  • Tweeder sets up a former graduate where he appears he's going to hit a flowerpot from the man's head with a bat (all to be caught on videotape). Instead, however, Tweeder hits the man, whose eyes are closed, in the crotch with the bat.
  • Some football related violence (hard hits, injuries, etc...) occurs.
  • On several occasions Mox throws a football to hit an opposing team's mascot (on the sidelines and officially to stop the game clock).
  • We see Billy Bob (who's been drinking) shooting his old football trophies with his shotgun (which Mox then takes and uses to shoot a poster featuring their coach's face).
  • Facing the team's mutiny, Coach Kilmer attacks Mox and briefly tries to strangle him before he's pulled away by other players.

  • Reviewed January 8, 1999 / Posted on January 15, 1998

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