My All American

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I love sports movies, but I always felt Rudy was overrated and a bit too corny (not to mention they fictionalized the most dramatic scenes). The writer of Rudy, Angelo Pizzo, steps behind the camera for the first time, to adapt the Jim Dent book Courage Beyond the Game. I liked his basketball movie Hoosiers, and came into this with high hopes.

The opening scene, with Aaron Eckhart in old-guy make-up, tells a young reporter who the best player he ever had was. It could’ve been so emotional, but it is one of the worst opening scenes I’ve ever watched. Had it been written better, it would’ve been a great way to show us what it was like for ? , the undersized football player in the ‘60s, dreaming of making it onto a college squad.

The songs on the soundtrack were great (hearing “She’s About a Mover” on the car radio), but the use of Wooly Bully in one scene with players racing each other…just didn’t work. The score of the film was atrocious, always coming up just as characters started talking, to let us know how to feel emotionally. It’s the most manipulative thing a movie can do, and even though this is a first time director, he should know better. And almost every scene is telegraphed. Pizzo basically fumbled on the 18-yard line.

I do give him credit for getting to the 18, because along the way, it was interesting to learn a story about a football player I knew nothing about.

A lot of critics will compare it to another football cancer movie — Brian’s Song. It’s not nearly as good, and that story was helped by the fact that it involved Hall of Fame running back Gayle Sayers. Since we don’t know this player, that might mean audiences to flock out to this.

Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) ends up getting lucky, and brought into the University of Texas Longhorns program. Since he out hustles everyone, he makes the team and quickly becomes a starter.

You start to wonder why the coach is never shown to have a flaw. I’m guessing most college football coaches would be cursing and being a lot more angry than portrayed here. Not to mention the fact that Steinmark is obviously playing hurt. Should we not feel the coach is wrong to keep playing him? Or what about the father? He works two jobs, and suffered an injury that ended a promising baseball career. He pushes the kid so hard, even after the kid is done with football practice, you wonder why that’s shown as a good thing and not bad.

I also don’t recall seeing any black football players. Since it was the ‘60s in the south, that might be accurate for the time, but the film never once discusses this in any fashion. Perhaps they felt that would take away from the narrative, but I think more people in the audience will just be wondering the opposite.

The movie is inspirational, and it’s great to learn about Freddie Steinmark. The football scenes are well-shot, but overall…this movie is just too predictable and corny.

It gets 2 stars out of 5.

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