This is the story of a high school student trying to escape his dying hometown, the story of a malevolent, overbearing coach trying to hold that young man back, who is selfishly only interested in achieving personal glory. This is also a love story, about two young people who dream of better things together. This is the story of All The Right Moves (1983) AND Varsity Blues (1999).
Just trade Tom Cruise for James Van Der Beek. Trade Craig T. Nelson for Jon Voight. And trade Lea Thompson for Amy Smart. The sole reason Varsity Blues triumphs over All The Right Moves is that Varsity Blues fully gives in to the sillier aspects of the story, where All The Right Moves takes itself a little too serious at times.
I still love All The Right Moves. It’s an interesting film in the oeuvre of Tom Cruise. It’s right in the midst of him becoming a huge movie star, following The Outsiders (1983) and Risky Business (1983) . It’s a weirdly serious high school film. We saw a slew of these in the 1980s (Cruise himself starred in The Outsiders).
Varsity Blues simply has more fun with its story. The creators know it’s a little inherently silly and roll with it. And let’s face it, greatest thing the film gives us is the ultimate wish fulfillment we all should have of overthrowing Jon Voight from any station he might hold in life, even fictional ones.
Voight is great as Bud Kilmer (what a name for an evil football coach). I hate him with such passion when I watch the film that his ultimate comeuppance brings me such joy. The film also features a fun collection of actors. It has a pre-Fast and Furious Paul Walker, a pre-Entourage Scott Caan (playing the exact same role, which I’m pretty sure is just “Scott Caan”). It’s got James Van Der Beek at the height of his powers.
And it’s got Billy Bob, maybe the most endearing character in any football movie. It was always going to be Billy Bob winning the final game for the Coyotes.
It’s the rare film that somehow has so much heart that it earns its amazingly feel-good ending. Everyone goes on to great things, except for Bud Kilmer of course.
He could end up homeless as far as I’m concerned.