Sandwiched between Rudy and Friday Night Lights, Brian Robbins’s dramedy Varsity Blues has established itself as a well-respected, lively look at life as a high school football player. Packed with popular rock tunes and a cast of names that have since gone on to other successes, it’s fun to watch twenty-five years later.

Varsity Blues takes place in the heart of Texas football country, specifically the small-town city of West Canaan. Life is good for the Coyotes, who are undefeated largely due to the exploits of quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker). His backup quarterback Jonathon “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek) is happy with the way things are, content to sit on the bench and read Nietzsche while waiting to be accepted at Brown University. Mox and his girlfriend Jules (Amy Smart) don’t subscribe to the nonstop partying that occupies the rest of the football team.

Football isn’t just a game to the citizens of West Canaan. Football is a religion and the preacher is coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight), sharp tongued and intense. Mox’s life changes in an instant when a severe ligament injury sidelines Lance for the remainder of the season. A reluctant starter, Mox quickly discovers the goodies that come with being the starting quarterback beyond the cheering of the fans. He’s being offered six packs of beer without asking and Harbor’s girlfriend Darcy (Ali Larter) still wants to date the starting quarterback, even if the position has changed hands.

Even as Mox’s star rises, he finds himself at odds with coach Kilmer who has “brought (West Canaan) two state titles, and 22 district championships!”. Mox’s story is supplemented by several subplots. The biggest player on the team, blessed with a big heart and small brain, Billy Bob (Ron Lester) has health and self esteem issues. Jules grows wary of Mox’s newfound stardom and the sex education teacher (Tonie Perensky) is moonlighting as a stripper. Given all these pressures, its easy to forget these kids are just high school students.

While not as memorable as Friday Night Lights (that spawned an equally excellent television series), Varsity Blues manages to strike a balance between humor and drama that keeps things interesting. It’s a showcase for budding stars like James Van Der Beek, but watching Varsity Blues today, its no wonder that Paul Walker became the biggest star to date; he oozes charisma.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Paramount has delivered a pleasing update from the Blu-ray release. Improved clarity has dismissed the muddy look seen on previous releases. There are a few moments of softness but its minimal. Depth is nice throughout. Blacks are dark and inky. Colors are bright and vibrant. Flesh tones look more natural than ever before. Aside from a couple instances of noisy grain, the image is free of issues and looks natural. The use of Dolby Vision elevates the look of everything.

Varsity Blues comes to 4K with an older old TrueHD track. the result is a fine but rather dull listening experience. Front heavy, it does the job. Just don’t expect much in the way of surround sound. Some music cues make good use of the LFE. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.

English SDH and French subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Brian Robbins and Producers
  • Football is A Way of Life; The Making of Varsity Blues (17:47)
  • Two-A-Days: The Ellis Way (7:48)
  • QB Game Analysis (15:15)
  • Billy Bob with No Bacon (4:38)
  • Trailer (HD, 2:33)

Buy your copy of Varsity Blues here

Varsity Blues (1999)
3.4 Reviewer