Varsity Blues

Movie review by
Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media
Varsity Blues Movie Poster Image
High school football drama has swearing, nudity, sexism.
  • R
  • 1999
  • 106 minutes

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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Teamwork, courage, and perseverance are prominent themes. As is staying true to yourself and helping your community. However, there are also numerous examples of sexist and misogynistic behavior.

Positive Role Models

Mox is ambitious, popular, academic, and is willing to stand up for what he believes in. He also has a rebellious side -- toward both his father and Coach Kilmer -- and is not averse to breaking the rules. The other football players are committed athletes, but they -- and others -- also attach status to people being good at sports, rather than their personalities. They also disobey the rules, pull pranks on authority figures, and display sexist and misogynistic traits. Some characters are motivated by their faith. Another explores different religions, "dressing up" in various clothing. Coach Kilmer is shown to be a bully and more concerned with winning than his player's health. He is also accused of racism. An overweight character eats unhealthy food to excess in an attempt to make people laugh. Female characters are stereotypical in their depiction, reduced to the role of girlfriends, cheerleaders, and even strippers.

Violence

On-field hits shown as part of football games. Characters shown sustaining injuries as a result, some of which require rest and medical treatment, some of which are downplayed by characters. Character hit in the groin with baseball bat as part of a "prank." A character (possibly intentionally) breaks someone's nose with a "misplaced" throw. Coach manhandles rebellious players.

Sex

Women referred to as sex objects. Characters talk about wanting to "hit some ass." Couple kiss and fondle at a party with clothing partially removed. Drawings of genitalia shown during a class on sexual reproduction. Character drives naked with three other naked passengers in the car. Nudity from behind. Cheerleader strips and covers themselves with a "whipped cream bikini" in an attempt to seduce a football player. Strippers wear only thongs and high heels. Once dances while partially clothed.

Language

Language includes "f--k," "suck your d--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "s--thead," "f--king," and "damn." Women referred to as "bitches" and "panty droppers." Homophobic language includes "f--gots."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Football players take non-prescription pills to deal with pain. Characters drink at house parties, some to excess. Character disregards police officer's warning about drinking and driving. Character boasts about giving women prescription pills and booze to seduce them. Underage football players given free drinks in a strip club. Character drinks alone because they're depressed about their athletic performance.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Varsity Blues is a football drama that contains profanity -- including homophobic language -- sexism, and some nudity. Exploring the negative aspects that can come with sporting success, main character Mox (James Van Der Beek) is the movie's moral center. But even he errs when seduced by his newfound popularity as the team's starting quarterback. Power is shown to corrupt coach Bug Kilmer (Jon Voight), who cares more about winning than people. Expect strong language throughout, including variants of "f--k," as well as the use of the homophobic slur "f--gots." The violence is minimal and mainly football-hit related, although the aftereffects are shown to be serious. There are sexual references throughout and the portrayal of female characters is stereotypically dated. Many are sexualized as cheerleaders, girlfriends, and strippers. Mox's girlfriend Julie (Amy Smart) is the exception, because she is attracted to him rather than his status as a football player. Characters drink underage at parties and at a strip club -- often to excess, making them ill and impairing their performance on the field. Prescription painkillers are used recreationally and shared out of necessity for footballers to "play through the pain."

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What's the story?

In VARSITY BLUES, understudy quarterback Mox (James Van Der Beek) is thrust into the limelight and tasked with leading his school's varsity football team to glory after an injury to a teammate.

Is it any good?

A likable sports drama but one that shows its age, this movie captures both the camaraderie of high school football and the pressure placed on the young people who play it. The central premise about a gifted football player, Mox, who doesn't actually care about playing football makes for a differing and interesting approach to other sports movies. Yet Varsity Blues does fumble the ball on a number of occasions, with jarring sexist and misogynistic behavior that is cliched and played for misguided comedic effect.

Its greatest weakness is that almost every female character is either sexualized or given little screen time. Mox's girlfriend, Julie (Amy Smart), is the one exception. But even when she and Mox discuss escaping their hometown for a better life, it's not explored with any great gusto, preventing her from becoming more three-dimensional. To its credit, the drama builds to a neat, effective climax, and manages to keep things light without ignoring some important issues.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Varsity Blues portrays sex. Is it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Does the movie's portrayal of females as cheerleaders, girlfriends, and strippers seem sexist and dated? How might the story be told differently if the movie was made today?

  • How are drinking and drug use portrayed? Are there consequences? Why is that important?

  • Discuss the strong language in the movie. Does it seem necessary or excessive? What does it contribute to the movie?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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