By Michael O’Sullivan
© 2015, The Washington Post
Inspired by the brief life of Freddie Steinmark (1949-1971), the University of Texas football hero who died at 22 after losing his leg to bone cancer, “My All American” follows the trajectory of many movies of its ilk.
Short of stature but with gumption, heart and willpower to burn, Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) earns an unlikely athletic scholarship to Texas, quickly becoming a role model to both his team and his coach, Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart), whose name is now on the school’s stadium.
It’s a modestly inspirational tale, if you tend to be inspired by gridiron heroics. Wittrock’s Freddie is indefatigably upbeat, and he doesn’t do much more than win games. His high school pal and college roommate, Bobby (Rett Terrell), calls him a Pollyanna, with good reason. There is no dark side – either to Freddie or the movie – despite its unhappy ending.
“My All American” pays lip service to a number of minor subplots – Freddie’s relationship with his high school sweetheart, Linda (Sarah Bolger); his role as a football surrogate for his father (Michael Reilly Burke), whose sports career ended because of injury; the death of Bobby’s brother in Vietnam – but filmmaker Angelo Pizzo (writer of “Rudy” and “Hoosiers”) doesn’t seem particularly interested in life as it is lived off the field. “My All American” plays like an extended highlights reel, not a movie.
“You got nuthin’ but football on your mind,” Linda says, teasing Freddie. “That’s not true,” he responds.
In the movie’s case, the observation is completely accurate.