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Varsity Blues (1999)

tomatometer

40

Average Rating: 5/10
Reviews Counted: 53
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 32

This is a predictable football movie that lacks intensity.

38

Average Rating: 5/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 8

This is a predictable football movie that lacks intensity.

audience

77

liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 122,112

My Rating

Movie Info

In his first feature following the success of television's Dawson's Creek, James Van Der Beek stars as Jonathan Moxon, the back-up quarterback on his high-school football team, the West Canaan Coyotes. In West Canaan, the only thing that matters is football, and the man who matters is the one with 22 divisional championships, coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight). Mox, as the young "A" student is called, is wrapping up his senior year on his way to Brown University in the shadow of his childhood friend,

R,

Drama

W. Peter Iliff

May 31, 1999

Paramount Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (73) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (32) | DVD (10)

Slickly enjoyable!

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Varsity Blues eventually fizzles out badly!

January 1, 2000
Film.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The football scenes are involving, the acting is up to snuff, and there is something about those last days of high school that remains a solid background for even the most familiar of stories.

January 1, 2000
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Scenes work, but they don't pile up and build momentum.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Tired, corn-fed storyline and generic, plug-and-play direction!

January 1, 2000
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic IconTop Critic

...slick, well made, and well acted, but it takes no chances. Seems a wasted opportunity.

September 28, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

...someone could make a very interesting, nuanced film about the exalted place that high school football holds in some parts of Texas... this isn't that film.

January 29, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | Comment (1)
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Van Der Beek and Voight weigh in with convincing performances .

August 16, 2002 Full Review
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

A serviceable 1990s teen flick.

August 2, 2002
Arizona Daily Star

Depicts just how difficult it is to stay true to yourself and your dreams when the call of celebrity comes knocking at your door.

March 3, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

In addition to the fulfillment of endless high school male fantasies, it also recycles every football and sports movie cliché known to man

February 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

An utterly formulaic teen sports, sex and suds potboiler!

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: NUVO Newsweekly
NUVO Newsweekly

cheap zirconium garbage

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Nitrate Online
Nitrate Online

The movie panders to its teen audience with typical crudeness and excessively lewd behavior.

January 1, 2000
Charlotte Observer

Hasn't an original bone in its rib-crushing body!

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Compuserve
Compuserve

Although there are signs of more intelligence lurking about, they're so obscured by the inane sophomoric material that few will recognize they even exist.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Screen It!
Screen It!

I was never exactly bored while I was watching it, but I hasten to add that I was rarely ever entertained.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: DustinPutman.com
DustinPutman.com

Anyone who misses the heyday of the afterschool special will certainly enjoy this banal tale of self-fulfillment, juiced up with enough alcohol and sleaze to earn an R rating.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: TheMovieReport.com
TheMovieReport.com

Uninspired!

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Scott Renshaw's Screening Room
Scott Renshaw's Screening Room

Audience Reviews for Varsity Blues

Coach Bud Kilmer: Your daddy was a no-talent pussy, but at least he listened! 

"Make your own rules."

I had seen this movie over the course of the last five years, but never as a whole. I had always seen parts of it here and there on television, but before I had watched it as a whole, I had only known the movie in clips. It's a fairly standard high school film. It's overly melodramatic and each and every character or plot development is completely overplayed to the point where the cliches are flying at you from the screen. Varsity Blues feels so amateurish, it's ridiculous. It's poorly acted, written, and directed; settling for just the standard plot and characters that go along with lazy, unoriginal high school movies.

In Texas, football is everything. Kids are taught from a young age to give all they have to the game, even if they don't really want to. Mox is the backup quarterback to an all-state god. When the starter is injured and can't play anymore, Mox is forced to step into the starters shoes and take over the team. His coach, Bud Kilmer is a local god, but only the players really know what he is like. He doesn't actually care about his players, only his résumé. 

I really dislike this movie, despite its easy to watch nature. The only reason it's so easy to watch, comes from the fact that there is a certain amount of enjoyment in watching a film that is so unsubtle and poorly executed. There isn't really a level that the movie actually succeeds on. It's all just incredibly horrible.

This isn't a movie of the caliber of Friday Night Lights. All it is, is another stereotypical, cliche, and insultingly stupid take on high school football and the players who play. Could the movie have been worse? Probably, but not much worse. I would suggest skipping this one. No matter how much you like high school movies or how much you like sports movies or any combination of the two; Varsity Blues is absolutely not worth your time.
September 1, 2012
blkbomb
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

A Texas high school quarterback defies convention and a hard-line coach as he leads his team to success and raucous teen fun.
My favorite sports film of all time is 61*, and that's not just because I'm a die-hard Yankees fan. I think my favorite moment in Billy Crystal's film is Roger Maris's response to one of the reporter's questions: the reporter asks him about the heroism of what he accomplished (I wish I could quote verbatim, but I don't have that good a memory), and Maris replies, "I don't think that's something you can earn on a ball field." And because of the attention that film pays to Maris's off-the-field struggles, we understand his point. Essentially, Varsity Blues flirts with the same point. The main character, Mox, considers his goals reaching beyond high school, and the film attempts to satirize/criticize the seriousness with which Texas high school communities take football. The problem is that the film ends up reinforcing everything it criticizes. Everything that you think would happen does, and what we're left with is a crippling contradiction: the goals these people hold so dearly are foolishly short-sighted, but we're still supposed to relish in the moments the characters achieve them.
Also, perhaps it's because my high school experience was much like most people's time in prison, but I always find films that portray high schoolers as adults, with the freedoms and problems adults have, to be extraordinarily false. After all, I don't know any town, in Texas or anywhere else, where seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds would be able to drink freely, steal a police car, go to a strip club (where their teacher moonlights [a teacher's pay isn't that bad]), and still face no consequences.
Overall, if you like over-drawn cliches and don't mind if a film is thematically contradictory, then enjoy Varsity Blues and the brief but delectable shot of Ali Larter in a whip cream bikini.
June 11, 2011
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

I made it my goal to see all of the football films in the world since I love Friday Night Lights so much, and man was that a mistake. Varsity Blues is a pedestrian, fart joke sort of movie with the brain capacity of a three year old.
April 30, 2011
jennifxu

Super Reviewer

Saw it again!!! I just love highschool football movie like this. Nice good cast!!!

onathan "Mox" Moxon (James Van Der Beek) is an academically gifted backup quarterback for the West Canaan High School football team. Despite his relative popularity at school, easy friendships with other players, and smart and sassy girlfriend, Jules Harbor (Amy Smart), Mox is dissatisfied with his life. He wants to leave Texas to go to school at Brown University. He also dislikes his football-obsessed father (Thomas F. Duffy) and dreads playing football under legendary coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight). Kilmer is a verbally abusive control freak whose philosophy can be summed up as "win at all costs". He has a strong track record as coach, remarking in a speech that "in my thirty years of coaching football at West Caanan, I have brought two state titles, and 22 district championships!" Kilmer's philosophy finally takes its toll on Coyotes' quarterback, Lance Harbor (Paul Walker). It is revealed that Lance, who is Mox's best friend, had been manipulated into taking cortisone shots into an injured knee that finally gave out on a huge sack. Lance is rushed to the hospital, where doctors are appalled at the massive amount of scar tissue found under his knee.

Mox, who has accompanied Lance to the hospital, is shocked when Kilmer tells the doctor that he knew nothing at all about Lance's knee problems, when in fact Kilmer ordered the trainer to inject the shots. In need of a new quarterback, Kilmer reluctantly names Mox to replace Lance as captain and starting quarterback. The move brings unexpected dividends for Mox, one of them being Darcy Sears (Ali Larter), Lance's beautiful blonde cheerleader girlfriend, who is interested in marrying a football player in order to escape small-town life. Darcy even goes so far as to attempt to seduce Moxon, sporting a bikini made of whipped cream over her otherwise naked body, but he rebuffs her as gently as he can.

Becoming fed up with Kilmer and not feeling a strong need to win, Mox starts calling his own plays on the field without Kilmer's approval. He also finally tells his football obsessed father off at one point screaming at him "I don't want your life!" Mox's father had been a football player at West Caanan, and although Kilmer dismissed him as a "no talent pussy" he did say that he at least listened (unlike Mox). Kilmer, who becomes aware that Mox has won a full scholarship to Brown, warns Mox that if he doesn't fall in line, he will alter his transcripts in order to reverse the decision on his scholarship.

Another friend of Mox's, Wendell Brown, is injured on the field shortly thereafter. Kilmer manipulates Wendell into taking a shot of cortisone to deaden the pain from his injury, allowing him to continue even in the face of a permanent injury. Wendell, who is desperate to be recruited by a good college, grants his consent. At this moment, Mox tells Kilmer he'll quit the team if the needle enters Wendell's knee. Undaunted, Kilmer orders Charlie Tweeder (Scott Caan), a friend of both Mox and Wendell, to take the snaps. Tweeder refuses. Mox tells Kilmer that the only way they'll return to the field is without him. Realizing that he will be forced to forfeit the game, Kilmer loses control and attacks Mox. The other players break up the fight and then refuse to take to the field. Knowing his loss of control has cost him his credibility, Kilmer tries in vain to rally support and spark the team's spirit into trusting him, but not one player follows him out of the locker room. Kilmer continues down the locker room hall, and seeing no one following him, turns the other direction and into his office. The team goes on to win the game without his guidance.

In a voice-over epilogue, Mox states that he "never played football again. Lance went on to a successful coaching career (he did not work at Wal-Mart as feared by Darcy), Wendell received a scholarship to Grambling, Billy Bob cried because he's a bit of a crier, Tweeder drank beer because, well...Tweeder drinks beers. Kilmer retired, never to coach football again. However, his statue still stands only because it was too heavy to move. I took the scholarship and will graduate from Brown University."
January 30, 2011
MANUGINO
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

    1. Coach Bud Kilmer: Make him understand.
    – Submitted by Rito N (15 months ago)
    1. Miss Davis: Penis, Penis, Penis. Vagina, Vagina, Vagina.
    – Submitted by Connor T (21 months ago)
    1. Sam Moxon: You get the opportunity of a lifetime, and you treat it like a joke...
    2. Mo Moxon: Playing football may have been the opportunity of your lifetime, but I don't want your life!
    – Submitted by Caroline D (2 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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