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Friday Night Lights

The best football movie in recent memory

The makers of Friday Night Lights were smart enough to realize their job wasn't to figure out how to make the story dramatic -- it already is. Rather, all they needed to do was capture the essence of how people in Texas feel about high school football. Everything else is icing.

There's a reason Sports Illustrated called this "one of the greatest sports stories of all time". It's the same reason that allowed it to be the basis of a best-selling book, and what should be a blockbuster film. In fact, if the film falls short in any way, it's because there may be too many stories to cover in one film. Some of the player's you feel introduced to, but don't ever get to have a conversation with. But while this is a legitimate complaint, the film paints a colorful, moving and at times tragic portrait of the players that are focused upon.

For that matter, Billy Bob Thornton, who plays Permian High School football coach George Gaines, probably has more of a story than the one that is told. The majority of the time, Thornton maintains a reserved persona as he deals with criticism and pressure coming from everyone from the school administration to overbearing fathers. But when he's called upon to fire a spit-laced harangue at his players, he performs it with alarming realism.

But this is still a movie about football. While the action sequences are a tad exaggerated -- there are more airborne collisions and highlight-reel hits than would happen in a decade -- they are no doubt entertaining to watch. More importantly, they're not so overdone that they immediately set off the bullshit-meter. The actors, or their stunt doubles, all look like they've played the game before. For sports fans, it's refreshing to finally not see the star player look like someone who was introduced to a ball on the first day of shooting.

Stars: 4.5 out of 5