If you want to witness James Van Der Beek attempt to don a Texan accent for 106 minutes, you may not get another chance. While fun, it has all the signs of a stereotypical late-’90s teen movie. It’s cheesy, telegraphed, cliched, crude–yet meaningful.
It follows a successful high school football team coached by Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight)–a man who basically runs the community. The small Texas town has already erected a bronze statue made in his likeness. The guy even controls the police to the point that his players can get away with stealing cop cars. That’s how obsessed this community is with their high school football. It’s all they have.
Mox (Van Der Beek) doesn’t see it that way. He’s the 2nd string quarterback and has plans to go to Brown University and put the sport behind him. But as soon as he’s forced into the starting role, he enjoys soaking up all the attention.
Varsity Blues doesn’t take too many risks–if any–but it has a lot to say. The script is deceptively good. It may be platitudinous in its dialogue and outcomes, but under the surface it makes some seldom-touched upon points.
The football scenes are some of the more realistic we’ve seen in movies up to this point, and it organically showcases the importance of football in some small towns in this country. It then proceeds to question that very importance, along with the aggrandizing of athletics in our schools altogether.
Subtly juxtaposing these ideals, we see Mox’s little brother, who has an obsession with religions and practices a variety of them throughout the movie, much to his parent’s disapproval.
It isn’t perfect, but Varsity Blues holds up well. Voight gives us a compelling villain to despise and the film more nuanced that meets the eye. It made me nostalgic and I was entertained.