Sometimes a filmmaker’s heart can be in the right place, but the finished product just doesn’t reflect convey that fact very well.
My All-American, which opens Friday (Nov. 13), should have been a no-brainer entry into the movie derby for this time of year. Instead, it commits the one sin that no film can ever. It’s boring. Completely. Totally. Irretrievably. Boring.
It also has little clue as to what it wants to be ultimately. Is it a sports film? Or is it a biopic?
Those problems are what exist for this story of Texas Longhorns player Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock). Steinmark, who played for UT coaching legend Darrell Royal. Undersized, rabbit fast and a diligent student, Steinmark, a Denver, Colo. native isn’t getting the scholarship offers he expected. When Royal offers him and his best friend together, they hook their futures together to play for UT.
They go. They rise. They start to make their mark. It’s in Steinmark’s junior year that he cracks the starting lineup as the Longhorns’ starting safety – the year the team begins its march toward a possible national championship.
The season starts out perfectly for him, but that soon changes for him. He notices a problem in his leg, but he’s not about to let it stop him from grabbing one of his goals. By the time, however, UT beats the Arkansas Razorbacks for the national championship, it’s quite evident that he’s in rough shape. At the insistence of his girlfriend Linda (Sarah Bolger) he has it checked out. He soon learns that he has bone cancer and an amputation of his left leg is necessary.
The problem, however, in My All American is that writer-director Angelo Pizzo (he also wrote Hoosiers and Rudy) doesn’t explore that aspect of the film enough. He spends entirely too much time languishing in a national championship game that matters to a certain segment of the audience. The best that can be said about it: he uses actual players which helps its authenticity.
But authenticity is too much of a burden when emotional resonance is compromised. It’s cliché to say at this point that other sports films have explored that better, including the granddaddy of them all – Brian’s Song. In the emotional department, the actors get cheated. Aaron Eckhart gets the best of the situation as Royal.
Wittrock has the meatiest role, but is only relied upon to say “oh gosh” and provide an accompanying face.
My All American is a noble effort that falls short.
Movie: My All American
Director: Angelo Pizzo
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Finn Wittrock
Studio: Clarius Entertainment
Rated: Rated PG for thematic elements, language and brief partial nudity
Running time: 118 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com