American Pie made a hundred million dollars in 1999, but for those of us living in wide swathes of the country, there was another high school movie that was just as important: Varsity Blues. I include it in Friday Night Lights Friday because (1) any chance to talk about Varsity Blues is a good one, and (2) Varsity Blues, like Friday Night Lights, was also based on the Permian Panthers.
I say also inspired by Permian, because the original creator admitted as much, although he never admitted any inspiration by Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights. I think that Bud Kilmer is probably based in part on former Permian coach John Wilkins. And I think this movie wound up influencing the show. Plus Landry is in it.
If pounding Lone Stars is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
James Van Der Beek, playing the least popular backup quarterback in the history of football, was the star here, flush with Dawson’s Creek success. But he gets overshadowed by . . . pretty much everyone else on the case. Amy Smart. Jon Voight. Paul Walker. Ron Lester. Scott Caan. I do appreciate that Mox dresses like he is an actual high school student in the 1990s (wooooo JNCOs) while everyone else in the movie dresses like they are in a high school movie set in Texas.
One thing that Varsity Blues does better than the movie or even the TV show ever does is convey the sense that these are people who have known each other their entire lives. It is also intensely quotable.
“I’m back! Puke and rally!”
“Tweeder, you think you’ll enjoy prison?”
“I give it a ten! A ten! A fucking ten!”
“I don’t want your life” (said with a terrible attempt at . . . some kind of accent)
“Wieners on the glass at the Alano club!”
It just has such incredible energy and style and is so much damn fun. And maybe it has one or two other things going for it.
I can’t say it is entirely realistic though. High school football teams hardly ever overthrow their head coach in a coup. And I used to be friends with a stripper who was a kindergarten teacher. She drove three and a half hours to strip, though, which seems a little smarter than stripping in the same small town you teach in.
But it is also a surprisingly deep story. All those high school kids having a gut check minute about who they really are. There is a nice bit of moral peril, too.
“You ‘bout ready to lose that scholarship, boy?”
“If that’s what it takes to keep that needle out of his leg? Absolutely.”
4.5 of 5 Stars.
You can find all of my Friday Night Lights Friday posts here.