Sitting down next to a woman who I soon learn is an alumnus of the University of Texas, she explains the essence of “My All American.” With the utmost pride, she begins to explain who Freddie Steinmark was and her love for what he and his coach, Darrell Royal, stand for.
Within the first 5 minutes of the film, my eyes well with tears. For the next hour and 55 minutes I get to know Freddie, his team and his coach, and then understand the pride the woman next to me exhibits.
“My All American” stars Aaron Eckhart (Coach Royal) and Finn Wittrock (Steinmark) and is written and directed by Angelo Pizzo, known for the movies “Rudy” and “Hoosiers.” The underdog in sports theme is evident in “My All American” as well.
Based on a true story, Steinmark leads his team and motivates his coach to a winning season at UT, but a medical issue brings everything crashing down around him. The battle on the field turns into a battle for his life.
If you don’t know the story, you’re in for an inspirational and heartbreaking treat. Royal has had 30 All American players over the years, but we quickly learn that even though Freddie is not an All American, he is Royal’s All American.
Steinmark grows and shines in pee wee football and all the way through high school in the 1960‘s in Colorado. The film gives us just enough of Steinmark’s highlights to allow us to know him, his family, and his new-found love.
We watch him grow and are truly endeared to him. We feel the of being rejected by colleges for being too short. We root for him at every turn in life, wanting him to succeed as if he is our own son.
As football is the core of the film, many games are shown. The cinematography brings you into the games with the hard hits, the bodies flying in contorted positions, and the accompanying sound effects to truly make you gasp and move in your seat to protect yourself. You feel as if you are a part of the game and can grasp what each and every hit must be like. The slow motion portions just hammer home the fact that this is a tough game and it’s simply amazing there aren’t more injuries.
“My All American" is a well-written story, but unfortunately, the acting and directing of the supporting cast fall short.
Wittrock is a charmingly charismatic actor, engaging the audience immediately with his smile and striking eyes. He embodies the description of the real life Steinmark. He is the pillar to support the cast around him.
Eckhart’s performance as Coach Royal is solid. He shows strength, stoicism and compassion in his words and actions.
But there are awkward moments in staging between the two, reminding us we are only watching a movie.
Robin Tunney (Steinmark’s mother), and Michael Reilly Burke (Steinmark’s father) appear flat and cardboard in their performances, again taking us out of the moment.
The young Steinmark’s teammates are at times awful, decreasing the emotion we should be feeling during a particular scene.
Even with the less than adequate performances of the supporting actors and the questionable cutaway shots and awkwardness in some scenes, this film has many positive messages.
This one young man still influences generations of football players at UT, its fans, and alumnus. With this film, he has the opportunity to make a positive impact on even more people.
It’s a story worth knowing and a life worth celebrating — we could all be inspired by this young man’s insight and determination.
If you’re looking for a family film with an inspirational and affirming message, go!
2 1/2 stars