My All-American (2015)
Directed by Angelo Pizzo
Angelo Pizzo has written four movies: “Hoosiers,” “Rudy,” “The Game of Their Lives,” and 2015’s “My All-American,” the true story of Texas Longhorns safety Freddie Steinmark. Notice a trend? They’re all inspirational sports movies, yes. But also the downward trend, from arguably the best sports movies of all-time to, frankly, one of the worst. “My All-American” seems like a parody of the great sports movies of old. It preaches “try your hardest,” but then, in practice, doesn’t put in much effort.
Undersized running back Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) had expected to play college football for his hometown Colorado Buffaloes. But when legendary coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart) offers the scrappy blue collar boy a full scholarship to play safety at the University of Texas, Steinmark’s life changes course. When his high school girlfriend Linda (Sarah Bolger) gets her acceptance letter to Texas, Steinmark is on top of the world. He has his girlfriend. He has the support of his family. He has hopes to play for the Chicago Bears. But in the middle of a record season, with Texas on the road to a possible championship, Steinmark has an injury that could threaten his football career forever.
Acting is at its most stilted in “My All-American.” Wittrock is a heartthrob, but you can’t hide bad acting in a nice tan and a beaming smile. He’s an amateur here. He was irritating, right down to the way he holds his mouth. He looked like a constipated Christoph Waltz. And his character starts off as a selfish, unlikable guy. He’s the cocky type that doesn’t know when he’s being made fun of. Aaron Eckhart gives us a ridiculous Southern accent and a stereotyped football coach character. Halftime pep talks are at their most clichéd. Blame the script, which is in every way a highly inferior “Rudy.” Start with the insincere, love-at-first-sight romance. To write his girlfriend’s name in this review, I had to look it up. I didn’t remember it. That’s because Linda is hardly a character at all. Really, nobody was. There was no characterization. There’s a spattering a religious references meant to boost the inspirational shtick, but they never dig into it, maybe for fear of coming off as a “Christian” movie that’s only seen by church congregations. The direction, too, is amateurish. To be fair, this is Pizzo’s first directing effort. Lots of rubbing of brows to show concern. It’s a first-film thing to suggest. Plus, the football choreography shows players missing tackles so intentionally it’s almost funny. There are a few fumbles, too, that are clearly just actors letting go of the football. And the plot is barely there. You don’t really know the point of the story until about two-thirds of the way too. Until Steinmark’s injury, he’s just your above-average hard-working player. By the time you see the purpose, you don’t care. You can’t get invested. It’s too long. It’s just bad.
“My All-American” is a sad excuse for a sports movie. Sappy is a poor substitute for inspirational. Steinmark’s story is a great one, but “My All-American” isn’t the movie he deserved.