When the movie version of Friday Night Lights first came out I passed on it because most sports movies are all the same and really you cannot write anything better than Flutie’s Hail Mary, Gibson’s home run, or the many heartbreaks of Cleveland sports. But after going through a season of the hands down best new show of the season of the same name, I decided to finally give the film that it based on a try. My first assumption that you cannot write anything better than actual events in sports gets thrown out the window because the film is based on a true story, which can sometimes is a little dubious because you, as the viewer never really know exactly how much is real and how much was exaggerated by the writer (but be sure to see the excellent DVD extra interviewing the real Panthers to get a sense of what really went down).
Much like the show, the movie itself is inspired by a book by the same name, coincidentally written by H.G. Bissinger, the cousin of Peter Berg, writer and director of the movie and creator of the television show. Bissinger followed the Permian Panthers of Odessa Texas around for their 1988 season and did Bissinger pick a good season to chronicle. For those who have seen the show knows just how much Texans take the high school foottball and for those who haven’t, just for an example, whenever the team happened to lose, the coach would return tom his house where fans have placed a “For Sale” sign in his yard.
Even though the television show isa fictional account set in current day Dillon Texas, there are a few themes that overlap: Brash running back that referes to himself in a third person nickname, check; a quaterback with a maternal figure that has mental issues, check; star player goes down thretening any hopes at state, check; Connie Britton as the coach’s wife, check; hot cheerleaders in their mid-twenties, well you can’t have everything I guess. But there is the dude who plays Buddy Garrity with a mustashe.
The problems with the movies are definitely ironed out with the television show. Hot cheerleaders aside, with a twenty two hour television show we get to know the characters much better off the field which are rarely touched upon in the two hour movie. Most of the movie is dedicated to the football and even that is severely condenses to about four games. And at the end of the day, I’m taking Kyle Chandler over Billy Bob Thornton as my coach. But if there is one thing the movie does better is Tim McGraw (yes that Tim McGraw) as the former Panther standout turned disappointed, alcoholic dad of the current tailback. This was somewhat touched upon with Riggins’s dad, but the movie did a much better, and creeper, portrayal of the situation.
Friday Night Lights gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Also check out my review of Friday Night Lights 1.x: Clear Eyes Full Hearts Can't Lose.