Varsity Blues
Rating -

Comedy/Drama (US); 1999; Rated R; 104 Minutes

James Van Der Beek: Jonathan 'Mox' Moxon
Jon Voight: Coach Bud Kilmer
Paul Walker: Lance Harbor
Ron Lester: Billy Bob
Scott Caan: Tweeder
Richard Lineback: Joe Harbor

Produced by Herbert Gains, David Gale, Ruben Hostka, Tova Laiter, Brian Robbins, Van Toffer and Michael Tollin; Directed by Brian Robbins; Screenwritten by W. Peter Iliff

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Here it is, already, the worst movie of 1999. We've haven't even passed February, and we've already arrived at the pinnacle of pure crap at the cinema. Allow me to introduce "Varsity Blues," a movie so void of simple intelligence and value that it provokes headaches and nausea. This is indeed garbage at its worst: nothing, not even the talents of James Van Der Beek and Jon Voight, could have saved it. Watch any three minutes of it, and you'll understand what I mean. The formula pursues an inspiration for America's youth to 'live for the day,' so to speak, but what the filmmakers are asking us to do here is beyond comprehension and tolerance. Those who will like it have the mental capabilities of a rotting corpse.

The film is another miscalculation for MTV productions, a company that has already shown the world how pathetically and stupidly movies can be interpreted by the makers nowadays. That process of the cheap-thrill entertainment began with an amusing but dismal picture called "Joe's Apartment," about a man's household inhabited with wisecracking cockroaches. Last year, "Dead Man On Campus" took center stage and sought out a series of brainless ideas and situations to keep the script moving at the length of an average movie. Now "Varsity Blues" comes along, and MTV verifies that they are indeed the most repulsive and deficient filmmaking company that has ever existed, and we're not forgetting Dimension Films, either. This is not simply their worst film in history, but also one of the worst in all history. To call it even watchable would be an inaccurate claim.

Merely attempting to describe the setup makes me cringe. The movie is essentially a combination of three clichéd movie formulas with a couple of new twists. It opens in West Canaan, Texas, a town obsessed with their love of football. Their high school team has already won over 20 championships, thanks to it's current coach (Jon Voight). With his strict standards for the athletes on the team, he's determined to lead them to that victory again, no matter what the cost. This guy is a roughneck in the purest sense: his cruel, unethical treatment of the sport and the players prompts us not only to hate the man, but to detest him as well. If a player is injured badly, what kind of decent coach would force him to continue playing? What is this, World War II??

Nonetheless, the star quarterback is severely injured and taken out of the game. He is then replaced by Jonathan Moxon, or as his friends call him, Mox (James Van Der Beek). He's not your typical football star. The town intends their football players to be great assets in the world of sports, but Mox sees himself going off to college, making something of his life. We meet him as an unpopular high school kid, and watch him develop into a star, even though those don't seem to be his initial intentions in life. He could care less if the team is taken to the championship, although he certainly makes every effort on the field to do so.

A movie strictly about Mox might have been worthwhile, but he is completely overshadowed by the host of horribly written characters to follow. There is, for instance, Ali Larter, a cheerleader with trampy tendencies. In one scene trying to hook on to Van Der Beek, she embeds herself with a whip-cream bikini. Kinky? More like messy.

All the events chronicling Mox as the temporary quarterback are demonstrated in the film: the games, the victories, the parties, and heck, even the law enforcement, which features a couple of cops showing up to put a stop to a party not once, but twice. Even after that, no one gets arrested. In fact, the party continues with a couple of the guys stealing a cop car. This is no ordinary party, either: there's sex on a dryer, vomiting in a washing machine, and a whole lot more, which is just as unfunny and lame-brained as the butt paddling and mailbox destruction in "Dazed And Confused." Oh, but all that pales compared to the moment when a character named Billy Bob, played by Ron Lester, gets up on the stage to perform with strip-club performers. Somehow, the words escape me as I attempt to describe him gyrating his body.

An example of some of the film's more insipid dialogue shows us just how moronic a character like Billy Bob can be. During one of the film's most notoriously moronic scenes, Billy Bob winds up on his back, injured and disillusioned (I can't remember if it was at the party or the game). Someone steps over him, holds up some fingers, and asks him, "How many fingers am I holding up? But another character explains, Billy Bob isn't the brightest person in the world. To expect an answer, you need to ask him a true/false question, not multiple choice. The solution? "Billy Bob, am I holding up any fingers?"

Ho, ho, ho. The whole film is a series of lackluster and stupid victories and celebrations, which can be watched in any order, since the script is strung together with such little thought that it doesn't even have a sense of direction. This may be a problem for most of the film's stars, but Van Der Beek and Lester will probably get hit harder with the devastating impact. It's always more difficult for young actors to recover from bad movies. Big names like Jon Voight will continue to see paychecks, because they have already established themselves in Hollywood as terrific screen presences. Either way, I hope all of them put this fiasco quickly behind them. The actors get lost overwhelmingly in the material. They sidetrack themselves from any attention and let the characters develop without any sense of rhythm. Not one piece of dialogue, not one scene, not one actor, and not even one cliché has any indication of ambition or effort. Even that forgettable ending sequence involving the routine "big game" does not establish a reason for the movie wasting two hours of our lives.

Maybe the fault lies elsewhere, but you can't help hate every person that shows up on screen. Especially Billy Bob, which, of course, is a shame, since Lester looks like he could be another Chris Farley one day. Why did the script give him an IQ that is south of 10 and a personality reminiscent of a lobotomized Porky Pig? There's even a scene in the movie where the whole team actually buys him a companion, whom he talks to when on the road. That companion is a real live pig. Oh well. At least he finally found someone to converse with on his own level.

© 1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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