Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

While John Hughes' high-school morality tales might have been better received by audiences and critics, no single teen film of the '80s grossed more than Porky's, a raunchy, low-budget Canadian sleeper that made over $100 million, spawning two sequels and a slew of imitators. Throughout most of the '90s, the major-studio teen exploitation film disappeared, only to be revived recently by the smash success of such teen-oriented slasher films as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Hollywood's first recent attempt at a real '80s-style teensploitation film, Can't Hardly Wait, was a commerical flop, no doubt because, in trying to please everyone, it pleased no one: It was too dopey for the John Hughes crowd and too chaste for the Porky's crowd. MTV Films' new Varsity Blues, however, while basically worthless artistically, at least gets the demographics-pandering thing right: At its heart, it's a morality tale about a basically moral high-school football star (James Van Der Beek) forced to deal with a corrupt coach and a small, football-obsessed town that insists on treating him like a god. Yet, as its exploitative advertising campaign implies, Varsity Blues also has more than enough tit jokes, fag jokes, sex jokes, puking jokes, and beer jokes to satisfy the leering Porky's demographic. Written by W. Peter Iliff, the man behind both Prayer Of The Rollerboys and the legendary cult show Blade Squad, and directed by Brian Robbins of Good Burger fame, Varsity Blues is a hypocritical, manipulative comedy-drama. Like Spike Lee's overrated He Got Game, it offers the pleasures inherent in vicariously experiencing the debauched life of a hard-partying high-school student while reaffirming conventional morality by never letting its bland protagonist do anything genuinely wrong. As a guilty pleasure, Varsity Blues is up there with Iliff's Blade Squad pilot. But anyone expecting anything more substantial than trashily energetic teensploitation is sure to be disappointed.

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