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The West Canaan Coyotes of Texas are a fierce and omnipotent Football team for a small Texas town. Led by unrelenting coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight), the team is on their way to winning their 23rd division title. However, star quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) suffers a season-ending injury, and the under-estimated Jonathon Moxon (James Van Der Beek) is unwillingly thrust into filling his important place in the team. Moxon soon becomes a town icon, whilst he and the rest of the team struggle to perform up to Kilmer's tough standards.

"As teen exploitation films go, this is neither good nor bad, even if it does star the awful James van der Beek, from the awful Dawson’s Creek, in the awful role of a hip, sensitive jock (he reads Kurt Vonnegut in the changing rooms) who is simultaneously goofy, rebellious, tender, quietly noble, and elaborately self-conscious about just being one of the guys. The preening van der Beek style hits its low-point when he’s glimpsed in a 7-11 soliliquising at a pack of condoms; there’s not one convincing moment in the whole polished, professionally likeable performance. But there are a few genuinely likeable things about Varsity Blues (which is a TV-style comedy-drama rather than an all-out wacky comedy). It’s unusually regionally specific, with constant reminders of the Texas setting: barbecues, bouffant hairdos, the felt presence of religion, the relaxed attitude to guns. This is all done in terms of broad caricature, but at least the moronic, mildly leering, mildly sadistic humour does feel like part of a half-authentic milieu. Often the approach is anything but slick and knowing: a visit to a strip club is played for pure old-fashioned sleaze, while some of the grossly stereotyped characters (the fat guy, the slut) are developed unpredictably, allowed a slight but surprising depth and weight. And judging by the long (often slow-motion) scenes devoted to the game in action, the director has a genuine interest in football, though his loving attention to particular plays and strategies was sadly wasted on me."
Jake Wilson

"It helps to enjoy some films if you have a passion for their subject matter, whilst it is crucial for others. Varsity Blues falls into the later category. I openly admit that I have little interest in American Football, and had this film been centered around, say, basketball, chances are I would have enjoyed it a lot more. James "Dawson" Van Der Beek stars as a man thrust into fame, and his transformation from cynical bench warmer to a town icon is never entirely believable nor very inspiring. At some stages in the film it appears as though the character of Moxon will spiral out of control as he experiences a new world of fame, only to have him grounded time and time again by director Brian Robbins. Not only does this reduce our interest; it also strips Moxon of personality. Jon Voight is Varsity Blues' stand out performer as a nasty coach intent on winning (very much like Nick Nolte in Blue Chips). It's a pity that it takes almost the entire film's running time for Voight's character to convey any emotion; the image of the coach's sorrowful face reflecting through a football award is quite a profound moment. But that one scene is really the only worthwhile part of Varsity Blues, a film with strong performances but a script ridden with sports cliches and a dramatic side that never steps into second gear. Still, if you like American Football, Varsity Snooze - sorry, Blues - might be worth warming to."
Luke Buckmaster, Teen Critic

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CAST: James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Amy Smart, Paul Walker, Scott Caan, Ali

Larter, Ron Lester, Eliel Swinton

DIRECTOR: Brian Robbins

PRODUCER: Tova Laiter, Michael Tollin, Brian Robbins

SCRIPT: John Gatins, W. Peter Iliff


MUSIC: Mark Isham

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes



VIDEO RELEASE: October 22, 1999


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