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Catholic Movie Reviews: My All-American


MPAA Rating

Life Teen Rating

Is It Cool?: Excellence in Filmmaking

From the writer of the football classic Rudy, My All-American wears it heart on it’s sleeve – for better and worse. Based on a true story and the book by Jim Dent, it’s hard to fault a movie that unabashedly celebrates a person worth celebrating, but writer and first-time director Angelo Pizzo gets swallowed up into fandom to the point where nonfiction often feels like a love letter.

Simply put, All-American Freddie Steinmark is 1960’s Jesus in a football jersey. But Finn Wittrock is so eminently likable in his portrayal that it’s easy to get caught up in the splendor of the second coming.

At several inches short of six feet, Freddie is undersized for football but has managed to become the star of his Denver high school football team. In other words, he’s Rudy with talent. He’s also handsome, authentic, courageous, hard-working, kind, peaceful, and brings out the best in others as a natural leader. If he has a single flaw, it’s impossible to detect through Pizzo’s rose-colored glasses. His dream is straightforward – play college football on a full scholarship (since his family can’t afford tuition) and get drafted to the pros. But first he and his supportive father have to convince a top tier football program to look past his unimposing statue.

Freddie also has a loyal girlfriend Linda (played by the graceful and endearing Sarah Bolger). Oh yeah, she’s a perfect person too. And their relationship is perfect. And it would be obnoxious if their screen chemistry wasn’t so good.

And then there’s Texas Longhorns coach Darrell Royal played by masculinity incarnate himself, Aaron Eckhart. Eckhart is excellent; and could have played the role with just his chin and his voice.

The casting is solid all the way around (with the exception of the reporter from the opening scene – someone’s cousin?). And thank goodness because without such capable performers the sub-par script would have never risen above a generic sports template with cringe-worthy, on-the-nose dialogue. The characters are so fond of saying everything they’re thinking in such an transparent and straightforward manner that it could be mistaken for an alternate universe akin to The Invention of Lying.

There are also issues with structure and pacing. There are no real obstacles to Freddie’s success until two-thirds of the way through, and then the pace slows so much that it feels like different (and less interesting) movie.

On the upside, the musical score is effective and the cinematography is gorgeous (although a bit too idyllic for the material). The football sequences are top notch with some jaw-dropping stunt work and engrossing sound design.

Against all odds, the whole thing still works (magic Freddie-Jesus powers at play?). By the last scene it’s hard not to feel uplifted and inspired on some level.

But it should have been much better.

What’s it Saying?: Message of the Movie

The themes are positive and life-affirming throughout. Freddie is an unabashed Catholic (and daily Mass attendant) but never in-your-face about it. Perseverance pays off. Family is important. Prayer and faith keep you grounded.

There is a strong message about good sportsmanship and an even stronger message about suffering with dignity and trusting God. Special attention is paid to the idea that there are no easy answers to the question of suffering.

Freddie’s best friend is a non-believer but he never treats him with anything less than extraordinary brotherly love.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Morality in the Movie

There are a handful of instances of mild crude language, partial male rear nudity as a practical joke, and some kissing between boyfriend and girlfriend. There is also an obscure reference to drug use (although in a disapproving way).

This should be a safe bet for the whole family.

That's Right. I Said It: Reviewer Comments

Freddie and Linda’s romance is so captivating that it could be it’s own movie.

Why is everyone so perfect?

The montage that randomly shows Freddie’s receiving communion is one of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen.

The Directory of Photography deserves to have his spectacular work displayed in a better film.

Aaron Eckhart’s chin makes me man-jealous.

Why can’t I dislike this movie? I’m such a sap.

About the Author

Ryan O'Connell

After a hard day of work, I look forward to a little exercise, some blues guitar, and a moving-picture creation by my ex-employer and fickle lover, Hollywood. I’m also a fan of basketball, sketch comedy, and vigorously defending my beliefs using this academic gimmick called “truth.” God has blessed me with the most loyal friends a guy could ask for, and a disturbing inability to not laugh at stupid jokes.

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