Friday Night Lights

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Friday Night Lights
Review (7/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Friday Night Lights is the lastest sports-themed movie presented to us, the movie audience of the world. The movie stars Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines, the leader of a pack of high school football players in the fanatical town of Odessa, Texas. Fanatical in the sense that the people of this town of around 90,000 people live and die by their local high school football team. Much in the same way New Yorkers live and die by the Yankees, Torontonians bleed the blue and white of the Maple Leafs or fans of Manchester United are fanatics of their soccer heroes. But folks, this is high school football we are talking about. Sixteen or seventeen year old kids under immense pressure to have a perfect season AND win the state championship. Quite sad when you really think about it. Are high school sports not supposed to be fun? Are high school sports not supposed to be innocent? Nevertheless, the story covers the team's amazing 1988 run at the state championship from training camp to the exciting final game. The movie also stars Derek Luke as all-star running back Boobie Miles, Lucas Black as quarterback Mike Winchell, Jay Hernandez as Brian Chavez and country music superstar Tim McGraw as the Charles Billingsley, the heavy-drinking father of one of the kids.

Friday Night Lights is a good movie for any football fans, or sports fans, for that matter. The movie has some exciting game action and some very interesting insight into the fanatical side of the sports phenomenon. Seeing these young kids and let's be honest, that's all they are is kids, trying to enjoy a sport they love but under the intense scrutiny of parents, fans, media, radio shows and all that jazz, is just painful to watch at times. I suppose it's real life and that's what makes this movie a winner.

Perhaps the one problem I had with Friday Night Lights was the lack of an emotional attachment I had with many of the characters in the movie. There are only a handful of characters on which the movie focuses - five players and a coach to be exact - but for some reason I never really had a heartfelt connection with these boys. I liked them but I wished that I had the opportunity to know their stories just a bit more. There were definitely a couple of interesting scenarios there - the Tim McGraw and his movie son story comes to mind. All the boys, in their own way, were likeable. But their "stories", if you will, were a bit thin on detail. Even Billy Bob's Coach Gaines turned out to be a bit of an unknown.

But despite the movie's handful of shortcomings, it is still a very good sports movie. Not great, but very good. I must admit, I knew nothing about The Permian High Panthers and was quite surprised by the final outcome of the movie. The final football game was very long, but very, very emotional. I really got into it like I was watching a real football game, which I guess in many senses, we are. And there are a couple of standard sports movie motivational speeches, but I loved the ones at the end of the movie.

Overall, Friday Night Lights is quite an entertaining movie. It is not one of those movies that is going to get the old juices flowing or make you an instant fan of the sport of football but it definitely is worth checking out at some point in your lifetime.

Released : 2004

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