Varsity Blues (1999)

varsity blues poster 1999 movie
4.0 Overall Score
Story: 2/10
Acting: 3/10
Visuals: 5/10


Every cliche you can imagine from a high school or sports movie played deadly serious

Movie Info

Movie Name: Varsity Blues

Studio: MTV Films

Genre(s): Drama/Sports

Release Date(s): January 15, 1999

MPAA Rating: R

varsity blues james van der beek jon voight

Look at me when I’m barking at you!!!

The Texas West Canaan High School Coyotes have a successful football program and are united behind their star player Lance Harbor (Paul Walker).  When Lance’s season is cut short, back-up quarterback Jonathan “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek) finds himself in a position he never expected to be.  The entire town is watching him as he just hopes to make it into Brown University and spend time with his girlfriend Jules (Amy Smart).  Mox’s big problem could be the team’s coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight) who expects winning from his players at any cost…even their own health.  As Mox tries to navigate his new position, he finds his life could be spinning out of control.

Directed by Brian Robbins, Varsity Blues is a high school football drama.  The movie was released to poor to mixed reviews but became a box office success which gained a cult following over the years.

I saw the trailers for Varsity Blues and immediately knew Varsity Blues wasn’t for me.  When I later found a copy for a $1 at a used store, I thought I’d try it.  I’m glad I did.  Not because it is a good film, but because it is a so-bad-it-is-good-film.

varsity blues whip cream ali larter james van der beek

I thought you’d like a whip cream sundae…

The movie is essentially a parody even though it does not intend to be.  If you ever watched something like Friday Night Lights, that series created a compelling narrative around a small Texas high school team without it being a joke (yeah, there was a lot of melodrama, but teens do have melodrama).  Varsity Blues has every cliché of a high school movie mixed with every cliché of a sports movie and toxic masculinity…plus, a little brother experimenting with religion that tries to make the movie quirky.  The film is glorious in its unoriginality.

I did watch Dawson’s Creek when this movie was released.  James Van Der Beek is good at the soapy type stuff, but when it comes to the drama, it is pretty hard to watch.  Though I hadn’t seen the movie, I often repeated his classic “I don’t want your life!” line which ran heavily in trailers and commercials.  The movie does have a lot of weight in it.  Jon Voight is actually not too bad as the “evil” coach and Paul Walker plays the friend/injured quarterback having to redefine his life.  Amy Smart is a different type of leading teen star, and Ali Larter plays the more traditional teen movie lead.  Billy Bob is over the top as he is played by Ron Lester (who like Walker died too soon after losing his weight).  The movie also has a small role for Jesse Plemons (who later went on to his own Texas football series in Friday Night Lights).

varsity blues paul walker ron lester billy bob

Both gone too soon

The movie doesn’t quite make the sport and the obsession feel real.  I’ve seen some crazy football people, but Texas football people take the cake.  The style of the football play doesn’t look like a team that is top notch and the size of West Canaan doesn’t support the fervor it needs to help understand the characters motivations.

Varsity Blues is a quick, funny ride through a warped perception of a high school drama.  The drama isn’t there, but the comedy of the absurdity is (like the teacher who is a stripper hanging out with her students at the club).  Varsity Blues is worth watching but probably will have you questioning why you watched it.  It is like The Bad News Bears, but meant to be taken seriously…which in some ways makes it even funnier.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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