New football movie full of clichés and cheesy dialogue.
In his directorial debut, Angelo Pizzo fails to wow audiences with the generic underdog story, My All-American. It seems as if he’s taking his pen while going down the proverbial list of must-haves in your cliché sports movie and checks every box along the way. Overcoming insurmountable odds? Check. Bad acting? Check. Cheesy dialogue? Double check. Pizzo, neither innovative nor original, never offers anything new to moviegoers as his film, based on the real story of Texas Longhorn player Freddie Steinmark, gets the generic Hollywood big screen treatment. Despite its potential, My All-American fails to live up to the transcendent tale of Steinmark and ultimately ends up being just all right.
From the opening scene alone, this film has mediocre written all over it. The movie starts out in 2010 at the University of Texas with an interview of Coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart). By this time, Coach Royal is well into his eighties. Just one problem — the hair and makeup on Eckhart is obviously fake (think Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa), making it hard for audiences to take this movie seriously and consequently setting a disappointing tone for the duration of the film.
My All-American then flashes back to the 1950s to tell the tale of Freddie Steinmark, narrated by Coach Royal. Colorado native Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) has always been labeled as too small to play college football. Teaching hard work and dedication, Freddie’s father is relentless in his training, developing an impressive physical toughness in Freddie both on and off the gridiron. The extra fight in Freddie is what eventually gets him offered a full scholarship to play for the University of Texas Longhorns. Alongside his Colorado teammate, Bobby (Rett Terrell), and high school sweetheart Linda (Sarah Bolger), Freddie makes a name for himself in Austin while helping to lead his team to an undefeated season. But just as the biggest game of his life approaches, Freddie is hit with a dreadful diagnosis that’ll truly test his grit and resolution.
Although Freddie’s story inspired America, much of the courage and spirit is compromised due to the desultory acting and filler storylines. If it weren’t for the respectable performances from Wittrock and Eckhart, I’m absolutely convinced that this subpar film would’ve skipped theaters and came straight out on DVD. The film truly hits on all cylinders when it comes to the portrayal of the bond between coach and player, leaving viewers wanting more focus on the development of this bond instead of on the lackadaisical fluff featuring Bobby and Linda. At certain points, it even feels as if Pizzo was too reliant on Wittrock and Eckhart to carry the team and continue to move the chains. Was showing the development of Freddie’s personal relationships a nice touch? Sure. However, it took too much away from what should have been the backbone of this story — Coach Royal giving the underdog a shot, paving the way for Freddie to cement his own legacy.
What was most irritating about My All-American was the questionable close-ups on the goofy-faced quarterback James Street (Juston Street) whenever there was an inspirational speech or a heart-to-heart between teammates, essentially rendering the touching moment useless. What was Pizzo thinking? Comedic relief? Wrong place, wrong time, just wrong.
Though the people of Texas may remember Freddie Steinmark for generations, I can’t say the same about this based on his life. My All-American will come, go and be easily forgotten. The film simply lacks the demonstrative substance that is required for a sports movie to be considered a classic, let alone decent. Craving football this weekend? Skip My All-American in theaters, relax on your couch and turn on the TV. Thank goodness for football season.
My All-American will come out in theatres November 13.