“My All-American”: More than just another sports movie
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Following a long line of inspirational sports movies, “My All-American” debuted November 13. The film focuses on rising football star Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) Freddie, despite his small size, and his high school teammate Bobby Mitchell (Rett Terrell) are hand-selected by University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart) to play for the Texas Longhorns in 1970. Freddie led the No. 1 ranked football team through a flawless season, even playing in front of President Richard Nixon against the No. 4 ranked team, the Arkansas Razorbacks. He is soon forced to abandon his football career due to a large tumor in his leg. At first glance, “My All-American” seems like just another sports movie, but what sets it apart is its unique structure and faithful storytelling.
Sports movies are often far too predictable with a cookie-cutter story line that gives away the ending before viewers set foot in the theater: a player has some sort of limitation that seems to hinder his athletic abilities but surprises everyone with his skills after a coach takes a chance on him. Meanwhile, the achievements of his teammates are glossed over, even though the athlete insists that he could not have done it alone. Though this film focuses on Freddie, his teammates are not pushed to the back. When new quarterback James Street (Juston Street), begins to surpass veteran quarterback Bill Bradley (Donny Boaz), the tension between the two players, however short, takes center stage, with Freddie as a bystander.
Sadly, this balance between Freddie and his team is broken shortly afterwards when Mitchell’s brother is killed in Vietnam. The movie uses this event to glorify Freddie rather than giving Mitchell a spot in the limelight. The film waves aside Mitchell’s grief by Freddie encouraging Mitchell to pray, and even uses a short conflict between Mitchell and protesters to portray Freddie as a wise mediator. Additionally, perhaps in attempt to give other characters more screen time, Coach Royal is rarely absent from the screen, and the movie poster is dominated by Royal rather than Freddie. Another flaw in the movie is the over-exaggeration when showing scenes from football games. Every tiny sound is magnified, which actually serves to distract from the action on screen.
“My All-American”’s strongest trait is its faithfulness to the true story of Freddie Steinmark. The directors did not shy away from Freddie’s devout Catholicism, nor did they ignore its role in his life, both pre and post-football. Many of his teammates acted as consultants on the movie, and the actors bear striking resemblances to their real-life counterparts. For example, the role of quarterback James Street is filled by his son, Juston Street. Students may recognize Freddie’s actor, Finn Wittrock, from the recent movie “Unbroken,” based on the Laura Hillenbrand novel read in sophomore English classes.
All in all, “My All-American” is enjoyable and bittersweet, regardless of viewers’ college allegiance or interest in football. It stands above other sports movie with its remarkable faithfulness to Freddie’s story, to college life and to Texas football. Hook ‘em horns!