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My All American (2015)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/23/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/16/2016
What drives someone to make a sports movie? One would have to assume that the individual(s) in mind felt that they had a compelling story to tell. And one would hope that it was a story unlike one which we'd seen before. Because, let's face it, no other mainstream genre is more riddled with cliches and stereotypes than the sports movie. Between Disney's regular entries into this category (Million Dollar Arm, McFarland USA, The Rookie, Miracle) and assorted other attempts, we are regularly bombarded by these movies. So, let's check in and see if My All American can do anything to set this kind of movie on fire.
My All American tells the story of Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock), a young man growing up in Colorado in the 1960s who loves football. Although somewhat undersized, Freddie comes from a hard-working blue-collar family and he takes that same approach to the game and becomes a defensive stand-out on his high-school team. Although it was his dream to play at Notre Dame, Freddie is shocked and delighted when he's approached by Coach Royal (Aaron Eckhart) of the University of Texas and offered a full scholarship. Things get even better when Freddie learns that his girlfriend, Linda (Sarah Bolger), has been accepted there as well. So, Freddie and his high school teammate, Bobby (Rett Terrell), report to UT and begin the grueling work of being a college football player. Once again, Freddie will have to prove himself and everyone will learn just how much heart this determined athlete has.
I don't know which sport has been featured the most in films (my guess would be baseball), but there have certainly been plenty of football movies. We've seen things likeThe Blind Side, Brian's Song, Friday Night Lights and even goofy things like The Longest Yard, and many, many more. And it makes perfect sense why football is featured in cinema. It's the ultimate team sport, so it's easy to focus on camaraderie and brotherhood, and this gives the storytellers the opportunity to feature a diverse group of characters. In addition, the game itself is visually interesting and allows for many different angles and set-ups.
So, the question must be asked, what does My All American do thatís different. The answer for the most part, is -- not that much. In fact, while watching the movie, most viewers will begin to question if the film even has an overarching point. We meet Freddie, he does well at football in high school, he gets a girlfriend, he goes to college, he plays football there, he excels there, his team improves, and they play in the big game. The main body of the film has a story, but it doesnít really have a plot. If the movieís sole purpose to show that, somewhat against the odds, Freddie was able to be recruited by a prestige college football program and become a starter? This is an admirable tale, but itís not necessarily interesting. The average viewer will watch the film and think, ďAnd?...Ē Itís not until the third act that the twist appears and we finally learn what makes the account of Freddieís life somewhat different and interesting. I wonít reveal what happens here, but it must be something noteworthy to justify an entire movie.
But, is it enough to justify a two-hour movie? Thatís where things get murky. Writer Angelo Pizzo has made a career off of sports movies, as he wrote Rudy, Hoosiers, and The Game of Their Lives. Heís making his directorial debut here and he needs to polish his editing skills. The pacing in the middle of the film is way off. The film opens well and finishes on the right emotional notes, but much of the middle feels like padding. It details Freddieís time at college, but some of the events seem vague. On the one hand, an entire year suddenly goes by and only astute viewers will realize this. On the other hand, the movie dwells far too long on the game against Oklahoma. Of course, the entire sixty minutes isnít shown, but itís hard to not feel like we are seeing way too much of the game and simply want to know the outcome.
Prior to watching My All American, Iíd never heard of Freddie Steinmark, and I seriously doubt that many outside of Texas or Colorado have. If I were to tell you the story, you would no doubt admit that it was inspiring and heartbreaking. But, the movie flounders around too much and takes too long to get to the point. The production values are excellent and the acting is very good, especially Eckhart as the tough, but caring coach. I recommend checking out My All American for the story, but be prepared to hang on for the emotional twist to finally arrive.
My All American should have gone for a second opinion on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look excellent and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very impressive and the depth works well, most notably in the game scenes. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track proves its merit during the game sequences, as the roars of the crowd flow through the rear speakers, and the tackles are punctuated by the subwoofer. There are also stereo effects which intermittently highlight sounds coming from off-screen.
The My All American Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. "The Spirit of Freddie Steinmark" (3 minutes) is a very brief piece which offers clips from the film, comments from the cast and director, and a few moments with the real Bobby Mitchell. "A Look Inside My All American" (3 minutes) is very similar to the previous piece, as we get more clips and quotes, and a more broad overview of the story.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long