“Varsity Blues” was not your average feel-good sports movie. Released twenty years ago this week, the movie gave people outside of Texas a look what high school football is like in that state.
Sure, plenty of stuff in the movie was probably exaggerated for dramatic purposes. But “Varsity Blues” came along before “Friday Night Lights” become a hit, and during an era where teen movies were always comedies and typically ended at the prom. So a movie like “Varsity Blues” was definitely something new and fresh for audiences.
I wish I could say I had pleasant memories of going to the theater to see “Varsity Blues,” but the movie came out during a rough patch between my then girlfriend Kristen and I. Things had been boiling over since the holidays with constant arguing and her accusing me of everything except President Kennedy’s assassination. It also didn’t help matters that we worked together and clashed there too. But when she suggested we take in dinner and a movie, I eagerly agreed hoping maybe I could fix things with her.
However, I was a little surprised when she chose “Varsity Blues.” Kristen was many things, but a sports fan she certainly was not. But my surprise went away when I realized the character named Mox was played by James Van Der Beek of TV’s “Dawson’s Creek,” a show she loved. Kristen had a big crush on Van Der Beek which didn’t bother me, but when I foolishly mentioned that I thought Amy Smart (Jules Harbor, Mox’s girlfriend) was cute, she threw popcorn at me.
Anyways, as I sat in the theater, I couldn’t stop thinking about the issues between us. Probably didn’t help that much of “Varsity Blues” is about conflict. The central struggle is between Mox and head coach Kilmer (Jon Voight). Kilmer is a by the book coach who owns two state titles and 22 district championships in 30 years. Now he wants the 23rd, and he doesn’t want a hotshot player like James Van Der Beek to detail that plan.
Mox has to deal with more conflict at home with his family. This was an interesting plotline, but I have to admit that at times I found hard to watch, maybe due to troubles in my own life at the time. But an early scene between Amy Smart and Van Der Beek should have told me all that I needed to know. The couple was tired of this town, their parents, their friends, and football. And seeing all the bull crap they had to deal with, I can’t say I blame them.
Meanwhile, in the real world, I kept thinking about how my girlfriend had changed over the last few weeks. Or perhaps it was me who had changed, like a couple of the characters in “Varsity Blues, ” I too spent too much time angry. That was when I started to question if this relationship was healthy for me. I still cared for Kristen, but maybe we both needed a break.
By the time Nox became disgusted by coach Kilmer’s behavior and he starts calling his own plays on the field, I thought maybe the two of us should have a serious talk after the movie. Then I was distracted when Mox takes his teammates to a strip club. As I recall, the group recognized one of the dancers, and I think it was one of their teachers. That’s when Kristen sarcastically asked if I liked that girl too. I ignored the question and tried to focus on the movie.
Luckily there was enough stuff in “Varsity Blues” to distract me for a few minutes at least. I remember one of the supporting characters founded a cult by the end of the movie, which still seems so random for a high school football movie. But I found it amusing.
There was also Ali Larter as Darcy Sears. She played the girlfriend of another player and the head cheerleader of the school. Darcy was the most popular girl in school, and she got the attention of every guy in the theater when she shows up in a whipped cream bikini. I guess my date noticed my reaction because later that night she tried to re-created this scene. Little did she know I hate whipped cream, haha.
If all of this makes it sound as if “Varsity Blues” is a good movie, you’re only half right. Parts of the movie are rather good like the football sequences. But the more dramatic parts never quite came together.
Some of that might be due to some casting choices. But acting wise, Van Der Beek is convincing enough and likable for the most part. Jon Voight, on the other hand, is more or less playing his cranky self in this movie. As for me and Kristen, you’ll have to wait until my valentine’s day post to find out what happened there.