Varsity Blues (1999)

(Netflix Streaming, December 2017) Much of Varsity Blues’ first half seems to be about Texas High School football and how it drives people to do crazy things. Elevated to the rank of a local religion, high-school football as shown in the film becomes an excuse for the worst excesses, its players venerated to a dangerous level. (While I’d usually be quick to tsk-tsk the craziness of teen football worship, hockey season has reminded me that high-school hockey is just as venerated in Canada and leads to much of the same kinds of excesses chronicled here.)  It’s good material, but it was to be done much better by 2003’s Friday Night Lights. The football stuff all leads to a climactic game, the likes of which have been seen in nearly every single sports movies of the past century. Far more interesting is the other high-school movie going on at the edges of the football movie, in which various seniors contemplate their future. James Van Der Beek is likable as the protagonist, Jon Voight plays the villain remarkably well and Ali Larter owns the infamous whipped-cream bikini scene. Tonie Perensky also has a striking hot-for-teacher scene that further shows how Varsity Blues gets more interesting the farther away it gets from the football field. It ends up as a somewhat generic high-school movie, with a few highlights along the way.

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