Stripped down to their essence, there are no two genres that feel as quintessentially American as the high school film and the sports drama. The former has long enshrined images of the all-American teenager into our cultural imagination, while the latter has exemplified the idea that all it takes to win is sheer willpower and a can-do attitude. The two genres come together in Anthony Solorzano’s first feature film Varsity Punks. Set in his hometown of El Monte, California, this coming of age tale follows the rivalry-turned-friendship between A.J. Montoya (Cody Esquivel), the school’s quarterback and arguably the most popular guy in his high school, and Rosie (Andy Bueno), the leader of the rag-tag group of misfits that make up the boys’ cross country team.
They’re brought together when A.J. hurts his hand and dashes his chances at being the varsity winner he’d always dreamed of becoming. And while the football team had long made fun of the cross-country running guys, A.J. will have to earn the trust of his new teammates if he wants to win a championship after all. Giving us Chariots of Fire meets McFarland, USA, Solorzano’s film boasts a predominantly Latino cast and crew to tell what’s ostensibly a story about how central sports can be to high schoolers — something Matt Ogens’ recent doc Home + Away explored in a border town in Texas. Add in some requisite training montages, a fun costume-themed teen party, and plenty of fly purple sports gear, and you have yourself a summer movie worth looking out for. With its mix of nonprofessional and amateur actors — many of them recruited from casting calls within El Monte — Varsity Punks is teeming with the kind of authentic teenage vibe we haven’t seen since we said goodbye to East Los High. But check it out for yourself in the full trailer below.
Varsity Punks is currently on a nationwide theatrical tour, and will be available to rent and purchase digitally soon.