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Varsity Blues Review

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★★★★★

And so sports fans, you join us in the third quarter of what's turned out to be a deeply predictable but nonetheless entertaining game with small-town star quarterback "Mox" (Van Der Beek of Dawson's Creek) taking a stand against team coach Bud Kilmer (Voight) who puts sporting success above the futures of his players. Meanwhile, girlfriend Jules (Smart) learns reluctantly to cope with being pinned to the town's nearest thing to a celebrity. Who knows, maybe this'll end with the hopes and dreams of a man, a team and a town pinned to one vital game...

Director Brian Robbins (Good Burger and, bizarrely, CHUD II: Bud The Chud as actor) piles the sports and teen cliches on with the ferocity of a rogue defensive linebacker. We have a father (Thomas F. Duffy) trying to live his dream vicariously through his talented but reluctant son; a raucous trip to a strip joint; jock hijinks and no doubt contractually-obliged male nudity courtesy of Tweeder (Caan, son of James); a predictable nod to small-town racism; a cheerleader who dates the town stud as a way to escape suffocating small-town morality, plus bruising football action in crystal slo-mo.

But what Varsity Blues lacks in originality it makes up for with good natured boysy gusto. Van Der Beek is likeable enough as the brain trapped in a footballer's life (though he fails to deliver slightly in his inevitable rousing pep talk) while the script, amid its testosterone-soaked tomfoolery (the sex-ed teacher who turns out to be a stripper is a particular crowd pleaser), delivers the odd perceptive moment - in a nice illustration of small-town hierarchies in action, Mox's bottle of Coke is slyly exchanged for a six-pack with a nod and a wink by a liquor store clerk once he has become captain of the team. It's hardly surprising that this was a smash in the Buttfuck, Missouris and Arse Springs, Ohios of the American heartland since not only does it have the ring of authenticity but it's refreshingly stripped of the knowing irony that has rendered recent teen movies all but incomprehensible to anyone under the age of 25. Take a look around Smallsville, USA, enjoy, and then thank God you don't live there.

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