It's hard for a person like me to watch the film "Friday Night Lights" and not feel a little disdain for what we called then during my high school years growing up, a bunch of jocks. I was never any good at sports, and the experiences I had with people that excelled in the field were far from pleasant. My own skills directed me in the arts of all types. I studied drama, acting, and directing, and I aced every art class I ever attended. It's a wonder I didn't turn out gay, but that's a misconception that the "muscle-heads" created years ago. I was trained in music from the third grade, and I still practice that art at the ripe old age of forty. Of course, when you get into your twenties and play lead guitar for a rock band, you're the coolest guy on the planet. In other words, I was the one guy that the jocks liked to pick on and beat the crap out of after school. So, for me to find a lot of enjoyment in "Friday Night Lights" only sparked memories that I would rather forget. Personally, I didn't care for whatever the characters were going through in this film, but I did understand it.
You see folks, I grew up in a time, as did many others, where division amongst people was acceptable, even commended at times. For me, I was on the dark side of the fence. I was the kid that hung out with the potheads, smokers, metal-heads, and weekend worriers, yet I always managed to get excellent grades during my high school years. What always killed me is the jocks were no different, yet they felt it acceptable to divide my kind because we didn't play sports. What's funny is when you get older you realize all that division amongst each other is ridiculous. I feel people should commend each other for their talents and differences; however, the world just doesn't work that way when you're a kid. This brings me to the point that kids are simply cruel, ignorant, and lack respect for what they don't know. And for all you kids out there reading this review, that angry face and temperament you are probably showing me right now, just remember that my generation, and generations before mine, invented it.
"Friday Night Lights" is a film about a high school football team from Odessa, Texas, that ends up going to the State final. Odessa is a small, depressed town in West Texas, and the only care anyone has is for their high school football team. The film stars Billy Bob Thornton as coach Gary Gaines, who is, without much background development, a winning coach. And I'm only assuming he's a winning coach because there's a shot in his office where you see several trophies reflected from a window. Well, as I said, there's not much in the film to tell you of the character's history.
Gary is supported by his loving wife Sharon (Connie Britton), who plays as more of a subtle backdrop to the story than the rest of the characters. She's your typical, stereotype loving wife, but she adds so little to the film that you hardly notice she's there. I did like it when she told her husband that if he didn't win State, maybe it would be a good thing to move to Alaska where they didn't take football so seriously. I laughed at that because she'd be surprised how ardent Alaskans are about sports, especially hockey.
Along the journey, we have a few subplots that focus on individual team players who go through their own trials and tribulations. One young man, Boobie Miles (Derek Luke), suffers a bad knee injury and is forced to sit on the bench, missing his great opportunity to play the final State game. All Boobie has ever known his whole life is football, and the one injury he suffers easily spoils his chances at ever making it to the big time. As I pointed out earlier about people like this in my youth, had people like Boobie treated me nicer when I was a young lad, I might have actually felt sympathy for him, but instead, I laughed (kind of like the laugh that Nelson does on "The Simpsons"). However, let this be a lesson to the younger audience out there: Don't pin your dreams on one big chance and a hope; always have something to fall back on. Boobie is a prime example of letting arrogance, pride, and far too much confidence get the best of anyone.
On the whole, "Friday Night Lights" looks good, feels good, and it even smells good. The way it was filmed makes it feel like a documentary without any narration. There's plenty of handheld camera action, complex editing to give the feeling of an adrenaline rush, and an overall independent filmmaking appearance that adds a touch of class to it. However, the film, in my opinion, lacks any purpose or any fashionable way of conveying a point. After all, they could have made a film about any high school football team in the United States that made it to the State final. Why was Odessa, Texas, so important or unique compared to any other team in the U.S.? This is where the film fails to give me any information, and it lacks conveying any message that I would take to heart.
If anything, the film was simply telling me a story of youngsters and the obsessive behavior of people in a small town that had very little hope for anything else in life. As I said, Hollywood could have made a movie regarding the same exact topic about any state in the union, so why Odessa? What's even more unfortunate is that I can't give away the ending. As a critic, I feel I'm bound to certain rules when telling the plot, but it is the end of the film where all the meat and potatoes are. Nevertheless, I can see why a lot of people will think of this film as a great sports movie. But as for me, it looked great yet had no rhyme or reason for making any valid point.
With that being said, I think when you compile a list of all the great sports movies throughout the years, "Friday Night Lights" falls somewhere in the middle. Compared to films like "Remember the Titans," "Rudy," or "Hoosiers," I just don't see where this film holds any redeeming value. The films I mentioned had purpose, meaning, and conveyed a message that many of us can follow throughout the course of our life. "Friday Night Lights" did very little to drive home any point that its predecessors had not already done well. In fact, it was more of a letdown that it tried so hard to make me have some sympathetic feelings for individuals that I could care less about. So what if these people lived in a small, depressed town and had no hope for anything but high school football. The way I see it is if you don't like your dead-end life, then there are other places in the United States to move to and do something else to make your life better. But no, let's all stay in Odessa, become rednecks and drink beer for the rest of our lives. Bottom line here is, the film simply failed in making me feel any sympathy toward anyone in it, and I found most of the characters rather pathetic.
The picture is unique in its own way. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen at 2.35:1. The colors are vivid and also dull due to the artistic freedoms that were obviously taken when shooting this film. In fact, there appeared to be too much detail at times and dark areas slightly murky. However, it was also sharp, vivid, and certainly pleasing to the eye. As far as sports films go, the picture quality was probably the best thing about the movie.
The same goes for the audio in that it was very well replicated. It is presented in the usual Dolby Digital 5.1 and does a fine job in delivering a good tone and balance throughout all speakers. I thought it had very acceptable dynamics, it was quiet where it needed to be, and it delivered the "boom" where it was appropriate.
There are a few extras on this edition of the DVD, and with the popularity of this film, I'm sure there will be a special edition somewhere in the future. On the disc, you get the usual pack of deleted scenes, a special on Tim McGraw transitioning himself from country-music star to silver-screen actor. There is also a "Player Cam" feature of all forty actors and athletes as you watch them work together during the filmmaking. It's nothing more special than watching a bunch of outtakes, but it does have more of a documentary feel to it. The last of the extras is a short story of the 1988 Permian Panthers of Odessa, Texas. In that feature you get to see some of the real players and fans that the movie portrays. It's interesting to see where many of these people ended up in life, but on the other hand...yawn.
Parting Punts & Tackles:
I can only say that if you truly love sports movies then, without any doubt in my mind, you'll enjoy "Friday Night Lights." It does have the appearance and feel of a good movie but is weak in other areas that left nothing but a plethora of unanswered questions. Overall, my thoughts were tarnished because of my experiences during my teen years and how much I could not stand the arrogant, self-centered, pompous jocks of my high school. It's funny how some people change while others do not. Case in point: When I attended my ten-year high school reunion, I was astonished to see that most all of the jocks from my high school had not changed in the least. They were still the same pathetic jerks they were in school, and that's putting it nicely.
If I could give any advice to our youthful readers out there, it's be kind and supportive of your peers. They may be different from you, but that is exactly what you should honor about them. Good god, I sound like my parents. Then again, I am a parent.