Varsity Blues (1999)


run time: 106 mins
rated: R
considered: Comedy, Drama, Romance
starring: James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Paul Walker, Ron Lester, Scott Caan, Amy Smart, Ali Larter, Eliel Swinton

movie summary: Varsity Blues is a story about high school football and the impact it has on everyday life in West Canaan, Texas. Coyotes head coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight) has won 22 district football championships in his tenure, and is gunning for a 23rd when his star quarterback Lance Harbour (Paul Walker) goes down with an injury. The ligaments in his knee are completely destroyed when he is tackled awkwardly in the backfield when centre Billy Bob (Ron Lester) misses the tackle and is blamed for the injury. Back up quarterback Jonathan Moxon (James Van Der Beek) is pushed out on the field with a chance to win the game, despite not playing much during the last four seasons. In dramatic fashion Moxon goes against Kilmer’s play selection to score the winning touchdown and become an instant hero.

Everyone gathers at the hospital to visit Lance, where the doctor informs his family that the knee has been injured for a while. Kilmer denies having any knowledge of the injury, despite supervising needle injections throughout the season. Most of the players go out to celebrate in wild fashion while Moxon goes home to relax have a few beers, let the nights events sink in, and soak in his new popularity. For three and half years he has sat the bench while Kilmer gave him no playing time, now he’s the starting quarterback with four games to go to clinch the district championship.

Billy Bob begins to experience concussion like symptoms while Kilmer rides even harder in practice, blaming him for the perfect season gone wrong. Moxon is now the leader of the team, so in an attempt to ease some of the tension amongst the guys organises all night party at a strip club. The Coyotes get slaughtered the next day at their game which causes Kilmer to lose his mind. After the loss there is only one game left to play, so Kilmer threatens to get Moxon’s scholarship to Brown University revoked, while humiliating Billy Bob in front of everyone. Billy Bob breakdowns and attempts to kill himself later that night until Moxon intervenes. They agree to go out for one last game, one last night, and give it their best despite what coach Kilmer has put them through.

On the final night of the season Moxon is playing it smart and calling all Kilmer’s plays. Running back Wendell Brown (Eliel Swinton) gets injured in the second quarter and during half-time Kilmer forces Wendell to take a shot and get back into the game. Moxon walks into the trainers room and says if Wendell takes the needle he’s out as quarterback and is willing to walk away from his scholarship. Kilmer blows up when three other guys threaten to boycott the rest of game and attacks Moxon in front of everyone.

When everyone is pulled apart Kilmer gives one last pep talk before heading out on the field for the second half by himself. Lance and Wendell take over the coaching duties with the hope of guiding Moxon and the Coyotes to the championship.


my thoughts: I remember the first time I ever saw this movie, it was on a hockey road trip and we were on a chartered bus. The movie is by far one of the best movies ever made about high school football in the southern United States. Many people who have watched Varsity Blues have probably spent time watching Friday Night Lights, which is based on a true story from the late 1980’s.

MTV plays up dramatics in this film to get audiences interested in the story. The action on the field is hard-hitting while the drama off the field defines what football means to generations of football players and fans in Texas. I have seen a lot of Jon Voight films but would pick his role as Bud Kilmer to be his absolute best performance. He is a hard ass coach who will do anything to win. His trophies and record mean more to him then any player and he will use his power and influence to get what he wants. Kilmer is such a bad guy in the movie, that opposing football teams can’t compared to the problems he creates. James Van Der Beek, the back up quarterback his whole career, becomes the first player that finally gets the courage to stand up to Kilmer and rally his team mates to do the same. Every sports story needs a hero and Van Der Beek, who was building a career over on his TV show Dawson Creek, fit the profile of a young superstar quarterback back in 1999. He is a shy hero, one that doesn’t want all the fame and fortune, who always wants to do the right thing. Moxon loves the game of football when it is played for fun, not what he has seen all these years from the bench. When the time came for him to stand and lead his friends to victory he was ready, just like he was all along.

I figured since football season has now ended, fans may be bored with nothing to watch on Sundays. Varsity Blues is available on Netflix, so turn it on and hang on for one wild ride.

my star rating: 8 out 10

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