School Ties (1992) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you simply read the summary of the plot, you may be tempted to blow this off as a lightweight coming-of-age in the 50's movies, but it is much more than that. Although it's about prep school football and scholastic pressures, it is a very serious movie about the undue glorification of sports and racial/ethnic bigotry.

The plot is pretty simple, really. A Catholic Prep School located somewhere in New England is tired of being the second best team in their wimpy conference, so they recruit the perfect senior transfer student - a straight-A student from an inner city high school in the boroughs somewhere, who also happens to be the star quarterback who led his previous team to a conference championship in a really tough conference.

On the surface, that alone is cynical enough, but nothing really unethical. The kid catches the fast train to Harvard, which is what he wants, and the prep school catches the attention and affection of the rich alumni by producing a spectacular football program, which is what they want. Cynical, but good for both parties, so just an example of good dealmaking, right? 


Brendan Fraser and Matt Damon are seen naked from the rear in the shower, then proceed to wrestle each other while still naked.

Chris O'Donnell was also seen in the shower, but his butt was carefully concealed by camera angles and soap dribbles.

We see one other anonymous student's butt in the shower.

No female nudity.

No, not exactly. You see, the kid is Jewish. This raises much deeper questions. 
  • If the kid just doesn't tell anyone he's Jewish, he gets the rich blond girls, he gets along with the in crowd, he wins the games, he goes to Harvard. But at what price? Is it worth it to deny an important part of what makes him what he is? 
  • Since he first hides his religion, he gets to "spy" on racial prejudice first hand.
  • Since his cover is eventually exposed, he gets to see truly vitriolic prejudice in more direct ways, ways both overt and covert. 
  • The very fact of his faith makes the school's deal really cynical. There is no requirement that their students have to be Catholic, but recruiting an outsider just for football is outside the honor code we would expect them to adhere to.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no major features

There is some very bright and thoughtful dialogue. The dean catches the Jewish kid praying after hours. The prayer time was supposed to be before sunset on the high holy day, but the team had a game that day. The dean asks "was a football victory worth dishonoring tradition?", and the QB replies, "your tradition or mine?"

This 1992 film is now well known as a training ground for young talent. Some of the students were played by Brendan Fraser (the Jewish quarterback), Matt Damon (the jealous rich kid who loses his QB job and his girl to Fraser), Ben Affleck (minor role), and Chris O'Donnell (as a short, wimpy, chinless guy - Chris sure grew up to be better looking that you would have guessed from his appearance in this film)

I give it a lot of credit, based on the thoughtful dialogue, the fact that there are no real winners or losers, and the ultimate realization that the snobby Damon's rich family will somehow get him to the top despite all his flaws and despite his having been found dishonorable in this episode.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Maltin 2.5/4, Ebert 3/4,  Apollo 83/100.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 80% positive overall, 100% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6, but Apollo users a very impressive 93/100. 
  • With their dollars ... it wasn't a smash hit, but it took in $15 million domestically 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. Surprisingly thoughtful movie with no simplistic, facile answers.

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