"Friday Night Lights"
Directed by Peter Berg.
Written by David Aaron Cohen and Peter Berg. Based on the
book by H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger.
Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Lucas Black and Tim
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 10/12/04
The choices over this past weekend were slim
in the mainstream multiplexes--"Raise Your Voice", "Taxi" or "Friday
Night Lights." My sister Cate nixed "Taxi", my brother Dave
nixed "Raise Your Voice", and we all agreed that "Friday Night
Lights" had the best shot to keep the family intact.
It's 1988. In a small town in Texas,
Odessa-Permian High School has a football team that on paper looks
like one of the best in the school's vaunted history; the four-time
state champion at the 5A level, in '88 the school had a running back
named Boobie Miles (played here by Derek Luke from
Fisher") that might have been the best in the country, and as
the film opens for pre-season camps during the sweltering August
sunshine, recruiters from every major school in the land are out to
recruit Boobie to play football for them next fall. Led by
aw-shucks coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), the
team--nicknamed "Mojo" for reasons not ever explained in this
film--sets its goals early--win all of its games that year and win
the state championship, or heads are gonna roll! Along the
way, we get the normal set of ragtag players that come together to
try to win the big one, including the sheltered mamma's boy at
quarterback (Lucas Black), the son of a former local legend (Garrett
Hedlund), the undersized defender with the heart of a lion (Jay
Hernandez), and the stoic All-American candidate that is absolutely
all-business (Lee Jackson).
I loved "Friday Night Lights", not
necessarily because it is always a great movie so much as it is
exactly as advertised. We get a lot of football action, we get
the steady diet of football drama, we get Billy Bob chewing on the
fat as the profanity-free coach, and we get high school parties.
The first comparison my sisters Cate and Sydney made upon leaving
the theater was to that ridiculous James Van Der Beek flick "Varsity
Blues", which was a movie about high school and football, but for a
number of reasons, that flick wasn't as good as "FNL"...mainly
because the football scenes weren't very well done. I thought
the football in "FNL" was fantastic; sure, there are the unusual
number of plays that end with someone not just getting tackled but
damn near mauled by defenders, but there are also plays that just go
quietly; a screen pass here, a run up the middle there, etc. I
hate it when football movies decide that on every single play,
somebody gets hit so hard that their helmet flies off or someone
breaks their leg Krumrie-style. I just thought that things
were balanced well, until the final game, when naturally everything
has to be amped up to meet the needs of the scene, which director
Peter Berg does nicely.
I also left the flick very impressed with
Berg's work here; after the shitty "Very Bad Things" with Christian
Slater, he did good work with
"The Rundown" and
"Friday Night Lights" continues on a steadily-increasing skill set.
The pacing between football scenes is excellent, the acting by the
leads is good ensemble work, the chemistry seems to be there...no
complaints with the aesthetics at all. The soundtrack does get
to be a little too over-the-top warfare; hard rock and drum cadences
do the lifting here, keeping the trench mentality apparent at all
While the script is normally pretty strong,
I thought it went a little too "movie" at times in its depiction of
some of the speeches and the slow-motion that movies of this genre
always seem to fall into. Okay, maybe it's all true, but
sometimes the lines out of some of the players' mouths at the most
crucial moments just felt a little too scripted. I also
thought that in the film's final segment, as the Mojo prepares to
play against an all-black team that apparently was the best team in
the nation that year, the film didn't go deep enough into the
race-related tension that was apparent as the teams prepared to play
each other; at one point it seems like it will brim over into
trouble; then, during the game, save for the normal smack-talking
between teams, it seems to dissolve almost entirely.
But, I was very impressed with "Friday Night
Lights"; while not a movie I'm likely to ever sit down and watch
again, it was an enjoyable time thanks to solid across-the-board
filmmaking and the fact the script is based on a true story.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard