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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.43%
Worth A Look51.43%
Just Average: 13.33%
Pretty Crappy: 2.86%
Sucks: 0.95%

9 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Friday Night Lights
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by David Cornelius

"Why yes, I am indeed ready for some football, thanks for asking."
4 stars

There are no underdogs in “Friday Night Lights,” no retarded waterboys, no undersized rookies, no ragtag group of hopeful anybodies. This is instead a sports movie that defies sports movie conventions, simply by telling the tale of a team that was expected to make it to the championship game and does. Why, then, tell the tale, if it offers little chance for overcoming obstacles, the cornerstone of any solid sports flick? Well, because it’s still a damn fine story, that’s why; a straightforward chronicle of a year in the life of a football town makes, surprisingly enough, for one thrilling true story.

The film, adapted from the popular book by H.G. Bissinger, is the account of the 1988 Permian Panthers, a team from one of those small Texas towns where high school football reigns, where the field is a multimillion dollar stadium, where the coach collects a bigger salary than the principal. I’ve never understood this kind of ferver (it’s only a game, right?), but “Friday Night,” along with the equally engaging 2003 documentary “Go Tigers!,” shines a fascinating light on the subject, making it compelling to both the lifelong football fanatic and the rest of us as well.

Here we have a town where locals stop to get their picture taken with the senior quarterback, most of them former football stars themselves, still dreaming of past victories, their present lives a letdown. No character is more let down than Charles Billingsley (Tim McGraw), former top athlete and current resident drunk, whose hopes of reliving his glory days through his son (Garrett Hedlund) aren’t going so well when the son becomes famous for his fumbles. There’s a scene early in the movie in which the dad storms onto the practice field to berate his son; that everyone, including the other adults, turns a blind eye to this action is telling of the attitudes of the town.

There is a lot of sadness that runs through the story, from the aforementioned former players (“This is the only thing you’re ever going to have,” one of them tells the students, a most depressing sentiment from men unable to move on in life) to the students themselves, who must withstand the growing pressures from parents, friends, and the community in general. When one star suffers a knee injury early in the season, it sets off a series of emotions that can only come from a young man certain that every dream he has ever held dear will never come true.

It’s a distressing situation for a community to create such crushing stress like this on a regular basis, and yet “Friday Night” does not overwhelm the viewer with commentary on the matter. The storytelling is more matter-of-factly, screenwriters Peter Berg (who also directed) and David Aaron Cohen realizing that the problems of the town will be obvious enough, a straight-forward approach all that’s required to study the community’s soul.

And yet the film is not dark or cynical in its approach to the subject; on the contrary, “Friday Night” also serves as a celebration of the game. Watching these boys overcome the pressures of high expectations and merely play the sport they love makes for great drama all its own, the darker stuff merely part of a larger picture. Berg directs the game sequences with great enthusiasm, and with editors Colby Parker, Jr., and David Rosenbloom helping mold the style, there’s a you-are-there sensation that gets the blood pumping. With its sharp balance of high-energy game footage and low-key behind-the-scenes drama, this becomes the rousing football movie “Any Given Sunday” failed to be.

I should also mention, if only briefly, Billy Bob Thornton’s role as Coach Gaines. Thornton brings a humanity to the role - and to the overall film - especially in the later scenes, when we get to fully understand the lines coaches must draw between their words on the field (“Can you be perfect?” Gaines asks of his team) and their life off it. Here is a man who’s far more down to earth than the town leaders that surround him. Along with Kurt Russell’s spin in “Miracle,” 2004 has been a great year for sports movies that dig deep into the hearts and minds of what it takes to be a coach.

Of course, Thornton’s is not the only fine performance here; “Friday Night” features an excellent cast of fresh faces, a few of which you may recognize (Derek Luke, Lucas Black, Jay Hernandez), many more you may not. It’s this young cast that ultimately carries the picture, gives it both its drive and its heart. And Berg’s movie is a film with plenty of both, a ripping sports drama that’s bound to earn repeat viewings for a long time to come.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10978&reviewer=392
originally posted: 01/18/05 11:39:40
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell very good u should read the book as well both recommened 4 stars
1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Very Interesting 4 stars
5/02/07 David Pollastrini pretty dull 2 stars
10/18/06 alexzander duke it was a great movie one of my best 5 stars
7/04/06 William Goss Mercifully unsentimental, but exhausting in its town pressure and teen angst. 3 stars
3/18/06 Elizabeth Pretty good - worth a rent 4 stars
3/17/06 MP Bartley I detest American Football - yet, this is a great film. Thumpingly heartfelt. 4 stars
3/07/06 Carolyn Rathburn A good hometown movie 4 stars
3/07/06 myzzy Teen flick, not much more.. rent it vs movie theater to save some money 3 stars
3/06/06 Annie G This was ok, but I was sorry I had bought the DVD instead of renting it! 3 stars
1/03/06 Piz Just another "sports meets teenage angst" movies. Seen one, seen em all. 3 stars
12/12/05 joe mieres this movie was very heart felt and i could fell myself in there position. 5 stars
12/08/05 Frank Rountree A movie with a true and good story, can't go wrong here. 4 stars
11/15/05 Jodie GREAT!!!! LOVED IT 5 stars
11/14/05 Taylor Fladgate The only football movie better than "All the right moves" 5 stars
10/27/05 millersxing Failed to connect on a Hoosiers level with either the football or the personal lives 3 stars
10/20/05 Brandon Hudspeth this film was one of the greatest sports films ever made 5 stars
10/06/05 ed garza good 5 stars
8/08/05 Doremimi If watching people cry over football makes you roll your eyes, you'll wanna skip this one. 3 stars
7/10/05 Charlie The plot is pretty good, but Billy Bob is even better. 4 stars
6/08/05 R.W. Welch Engrossing fact-based gridiron yarn. No doubt hyped a bit but effectively done. 4 stars
5/03/05 Romes Best film of 2004 5 stars
3/29/05 Fred An average movie, constant camera angle changes make it seem like a home-made movie 3 stars
2/19/05 HL Nothing Deep Here..A Formula Movie...Bit Overdone...Visual Though 4 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Typical football movie but if you love Tim McGraw or Billy Bob Thornton it is a must see! 4 stars
2/13/05 Jeanine Price Loved this movie 4 stars
2/05/05 Susan Chamberlain Pretty intense. Not a cheer you up movie. 4 stars
2/04/05 Colleen Goldrick good movie 4 stars
1/31/05 Robert Pfeifer A great football movie. Great acting and a nice storyline. 4 stars
1/30/05 Michael Lisanti Fantastic Movie, up there with the orginial Rocky in terms of sports movies. 5 stars
1/29/05 Carl Gorney Has the feel of a documentary-great job by alll 5 stars
1/29/05 Pete H Just because the film doesn't end in the cliche manner, doesn't make it an awesome movie!!! 3 stars
12/12/04 rich cliched, no character developed, lame 2 stars
11/15/04 Mike V One of the darkest and best sports movies ever made 5 stars
11/03/04 Attorneychick Perfect depiction of Texas High School Football! Had no clue Tim McGraw can act?! 5 stars
10/26/04 Cindy It was a geat movie. I really connected with the characters and got involved in the movie. 5 stars
10/24/04 moviedude shows football as the all end all in the texas town, but does nothing else for this viewer. 2 stars
10/22/04 cristi definetly an accurate portrayal of Texas High School football 5 stars
10/19/04 Jake The movie was great, I felt like crying at the end, The music was very well done 5 stars
10/16/04 MR Damn this movie was tight. I'm a big football fan and it was the shit, it delivered. See it 5 stars
10/16/04 Vinnie B It takes guts to make a movie like this that avoids cliches and a feel good ending. 5 stars
10/16/04 mactheknight very good. Did not like all the close-ups 4 stars
10/16/04 Jeremy Burroughs its the best football ive ever seen 5 stars
10/12/04 Elizabeth The agony & ecstacy of football as a microcosm of smalltown life. Poignant and enjoyable. 4 stars
10/12/04 Desperado Great movie, based on a even greater book, Thorton and McGraw (?!) are great 5 stars
10/11/04 JW movie is more "faction" than anything--based on true story but significantly softened 5 stars
10/08/04 Kris Bad Santa teaches football. Who can resist? 5 stars
10/08/04 malcolm distracting camera work. also see "All The Right Moves" and documentary "Go Tigers." 4 stars
10/05/04 Jessica Hedrick more factual than the book it is based on, if you lived in w. texasd you'll love it 4 stars
10/03/04 Josh Standlee The ONLY good football movie is "Waterboy". Don't see this shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
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  08-Oct-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Jan-2005



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