Typically, with this subject matter, the January release, the constant refrain of “AH DON’T WANT YORE LAHF!” rattling around in my head from the trailers, and direction by Brian Robbins (the director of “Good Burger” and the one-time rebel kid from TV’s “Head of the Class”), I would expect this movie to be a real critical scratching post. It is not quite as stupid as it looks. I’m not saying it ISN’T dumb, though, just not as bad as I think even the studio thought.
In New Canaan, Texas, only ONE thing matters: The Coyotes, the high school football team. The team, under coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight, in his evil authoritarian mode), has one 22 straight divisional championships. This year, all-state quarterback Lance Harbor (Paul Walker) has led the team to a perfect record with five games to go. Coach Kilmer, however, has been pushing the team beyond their physical limits, causing the very large blocker Billy Bob (Ron Lester) to collapse during a play. Lance, suddenly unprotected, gets hit, and is out for the season.
At this point, his backup, our hero, Jonothan Moxon (James Van Der Beek from TV’s “Dawson’s Creek”), is called in to finish the game. After a heroic play, Moxon gains the starting position and a new status in the town. ^ Will he neglect his classes? ^ Will he lose his girlfriend (Amy Smart)? ^ Will he sleep with the head cheerleader? ^ Will he blow the big game? ^ Is he good enough? ^ Does any of this matter? ^
In the end, writer W. Peter Iliff has merged two types of sports movies,
1) Athletes pushed too far by the system, and 2) The underdogs can win by banding together and using the play that’s sooooooooo crazy, IT JUST MIGHT WORK…
I don’t think we’re here to learn anything new. Coming from MTV Pictures, the people who brought us the singing cockroach movie, “Joe’s Apartment”, the whole thing has the whiff of a star vehicle, as Moxon had absolutely NO negative characteristics (those are reserved for Jonathan’s buddies, especially Tweeder, played by Scott Caan who’s channeling his dad, James Caan).
I quickly grew tired of getting hit over the head about all the abuses heaped upon high school players forced to win. Luckily it doesn’t feel like an after-school special (due to all the gratuitous nudity, drinking, and profanity) but I could have done with a little more subtlety from Jon Voight. I believe he’s thoroughly studied his peers, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, because Voight, too has developed an all-purpose acting persona to use in every film; this time pitched somewhere between “The Rainmaker” and “Anaconda”.
The saving graces are actually the younger performances. Much as I make fun of his projects, that James Van Der Beek is one likable fella, and you can just wind up Caan and watch him go. All this movie really wants to be is another stupid teen movie, as the studios have relearned to do, and on those terms it succeeds. Sort of.