Single Person’s Movie: Varsity Blues

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It’s 2 AM and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully-lit apartment and still on the couch. On TV, the credits of some movie you’ve already seen a billion times are scrolling by. It feels like rock bottom. And we know, because we’re just like you: single. 

Need a movie to keep you company until you literally can’t keep your eyes open? Join us tonight when we pass out to Varsity Blues [starting @ 11 p.m. on TNT]

Why we’ll try to stay up and watch it: After Die Hard became a breakout success in the late ‘80s, nearly every action movie that followed it could be summed up as follows: Die Hard on a (insert noun here). One after the other, movies like Under Siege (Die Hard on a ship), Passenger 57 (Die Hard on a plane) and Speed (Die Hard on a bus) took the formula and just set it in another scenario to varying degrees of success; this was paint-by-numbers screenwriting at its finest. Not surprisingly, when teen movies became all the rage during the mid-to-late ‘90s, a similar tactic was applied: Take whatever idea you may have and set it during high school! This led to adaptations of Shakespeare (10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That) and Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (Cruel Intentions), horror reinventions (Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer), and even sports movies (Summer Catch and, of course, Varsity Blues).

As we’ve been fond of proclaiming, 1999 was a pretty darn good year for movies. And while under no metric could Varsity Blues be confused with any of the great films from that year, we’re pretty certain it might be the one film from 1999 that we’ve seen the most. The vast gap between re-watchability and quality has never been more apparent: Varsity Blues, directed by former Head of the Class star Brian Robbins, is a pretty mediocre piece of filmmaking, but it’s so darn entertaining that you aren’t likely to notice.

You know the story, so we won’t bother recapping it here, only to say that if you’ve ever seen a sports movie, you know how this is going to turn out. The fun lies in the fact that everything about Varsity Blues is pitched to ridiculous levels. What other way is there to describe a movie that introduces the star quarterback (Paul Walker, a man possibly genetically engineered to play the star quarterback) by using “My Hero” by Foo Fighters as the music cue? Think of it this way: James Van Der Beek, he of the square jaw and normally blonde locks, plays the outsider backup quarterback—you know, the one who reads Slaughterhouse Five during practices and wants to go to Brown—but to give him an edge, the filmmakers decided to dye his hair dark brown. Mysterious! Charlize Theron, eat your heart out.

When we’ll probably fall asleep: While we could easily stay up to watch the entire movie—the finale is a man-tear special; not that we would know—we’ll punch out a while before that, at around midnight, 60 minutes into the film. That’s when Mr. Van Der Beek’s Jonathan “Mox” Moxon (have you ever?) shouts this immortal line at his father: “Playing football at West Canaan may have been the opportunity of your lifetime, but I don’t want your life.” Just reading that gives us chills. And you thought Rebel Without a Cause captured teen angst…

Single Person’s Movie: Varsity Blues