This minor movie's stellar success at the American box-office is baffling. It must be something to do with star James Van Der Beek, whose TV series Dawson's Creek has a healthy Stateside following. Over here though, the series only draws a small cult audience, so Van Der Beek's first big-screen starring role should be a much harder sell.
But what exactly are they trying to sell? A comedy? Sort of. A teen-angst drama? Not really. A rousing tale about American football? Barely. A fun night at the multiplex? Only if you don't get out much. Basically, this could - and maybe should - have gone straight to video in the UK.
Van Der Beek makes the transition to the big screen with ease and is likeable enough as the quarterback who gets his big chance when the star player is injured. If that was all Varsity Blues was about, it could have been a half-decent drama with a big, Hollywood-standard finish on the sports field. But it sets itself so many goals that it ends up being a muddled melodrama with, yep, a big, Hollywood-standard finish on the sports field.
Director Brian Robbins knows all about TV, having starred in a sitcom (Head Of The Class), produced the Kenan&Kel Show and directed the two Ks in their Good Burger movie. But he obviously has much to learn about film-making. Sure, Varsity Blues is as good-looking as its cast (ignoring the increasingly craggy Jon Voight) but it's episodic and lazy, and some of the dialogue is painfully cheesy.
Top marks for the football scenes, though, which are bone-crunchingly effective and (thankfully) don't involve too many technical terms for a British audience. But nil points for the foul language and crass nudity that earn the film a certificate which, over here at least, means most of Van Der Beek's core teen audience will be barred.
Despite Varsity Blues' US success, it has straight-to-video stamped all over it. Part coming-of-age comedy, part sports drama, but not much of either, this just isn't big enough for the big screen, and British kids are unlikely to come running.