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Dan's Review: "My All-American" stays true to sports drama formula

Nov 13, 2015 01:14PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Aaron Eckhart and Finn Whitrock in My All-American - © - Clarius Entertainment

My All-American (Clarius Entertainment)

Rated PG for thematic elements, language and brief partial nudity.

Starring Finn Wittrock, Sarah Bolger, Aaron Eckhart, Robin Tunney, Michael Reilly Burke, Rett Terrell, Juston Street, Marco Perella.

Written by Angelo Pizzo, based on Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story by Jim Dent.

Directed by Angelo Pizzo.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

There’s nothing more “American” than sports, and when you mix real-life drama with sports culture, you have a good recipe for a hit movie, like Rudy and Hoosiers. The screenwriter who penned the scripts for these movies (Angelo Pizzo) is trying the same formula for My All-American, the true story of Freddie Steinmark, a young University of Texas football player who was forced to take on some serious challenges on and off the field (Pizzo also directs).

Finn Whitrock stars as Steinmark, the smallish but chippy player who became a defensive star for Texas in the late 1960s. Barely recruited out of high school, Freddie gets the attention of Longhorn coaching legend Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart) while recruiting Steinmark’s high school teammate Bobby Mitchell (Rett Terrell). Freddie has all the support of his parents (Michael Reilly Burke & Robin Tunney), along with his high school sweetheart Linda (Sarah Bolger), who follows him to Texas. Despite his small size, Steinmark becomes a stalwart for the Longhorns, leading them to a number one ranking prior to the “Game of the Century” played between Texas and #2 Arkansas on December 9, 1969.

But all is not right with Freddie, as he experiences extreme pain in his left leg for several months leading up top the big game. After great heroics and a come-from-behind thriller, Freddie finally sees a doctor, and the news is not good. He must dig down and find the same spirit that led him to football greatness, despite the odds to face the biggest challenge of his young life.

My All-American is predictably sweet and dramatic, drawing upon all the football/sports metaphors you’d expect from the guy who brought us Rudy and Hoosiers. Steinmark’s story is inspirational, and a breath of fresh air, considering all the bad press football players are getting these days. The movie depicts Steinmark as a true all-American boy, complete with an “aw-shucks” demeanor and squeaky-clean behavior. I don’t know if the real Freddie was as humble and religious as Finn Whitrock portrays him, but the movie makes him seem like a fellow everyone could admire.

That said, My All-American suffers from an overabundance of sweetness and a little creative license with the Steinmark story, while avoiding some of the cultural turbulence that was going on in the late 1960s. The opening scene of the movie is a little cringe-worthy as well, with a substandard makeup job on Eckhart. His exposition on Steinmark sets up the story like a soap opera flashback. Getting an older actor like James Brolin might have worked better than the powdered wig and latex on Eckhart.

Despite its flaws, My All-American is a sweet but sad story about an apparently authentic and good person. Many can draw inspiration from Freddie Steinmark, and they should.


My All-American Trailer

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