By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
The legendary story of Freddie Joe Steinmark is one with which most Texas Longhorn football fans are familiar. During the late 1960s, Steinmark played for the team under the venerable Coach Darrell Royal. He played safety during his career at the University and was a part of the 1969 championship team. Even though his team’s season ended triumphantly. Freddie’s story would end tragically. Not long before Texas defeated Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, he would receive some devastating news that put an end to his football career.
Written and directed by Angelo Pizzo (writer of Hoosiers and Rudy), My All-American actually would make for a great triple feature with Pizzo’s previous sports-themed films. As a stand-alone film, the movie does make for fine entertainment, but is definitely lacking in the character development department. Actor Finn Witrock stars as Freddie and delivers a solid and most earnest performance. The problem is that Pizzo’s development of Steinmark, as a character, feels too one-note. Steinmark comes across as an absolute perfect and immaculate angel.
Other than his legendary story, I actually know very little about what kind of person Freddie was and it almost seems like Pizzo still had some to learn about him in order to flesh out a fully dimensional character. Don’t get me wrong; I took a liking to the character and still felt a powerful sting when things go wrong for the poster child of team spirit (only second to Rudy, of course). The whole representation comes across as slightly embellished and exaggerated.
Still, despite my gripes with the character development, I also took a liking to the other characters and the overall message of the film–a message shared by its older “brothers” Rudy and Hoosiers. The movie definitely does inspire and genuinely does break the heart. It is a great story worthy of the cinematic treatment. Considering that this is Pizzo’s first outing as a director, I have to say he does pull it off decently. In both his work as writer and director of this film, the man obviously puts much heart and respect into the traditions of the University of Texas and represents the school beautifully. If his Rudy screenplay was a love letter to Notre Dame football, My All American does exactly the same for the history of Texas Longhorn football.
The film also features an exceptional cast which includes Sarah Bolger, Robin Tunney, Michael Reilly Burke, Rett Terrell, and Aaron Eckhart as Coach Darrell K. Royal. Also noteworthy in the cast is former athlete-turned actor Juston Street who stars as his legendary father James Street. Everyone in the film delivers solid turns with Eckhart really shining as Coach Royal.
With the love and respect dedicated to honoring University of Texas Football, Coach Royal, and Freddie Steinmark, Texas Longhorn fans will certainly love this film. Casual fans and those who don’t follow college football will still find much to like about the movie. Steinmark’s story is a great tragedy, and deserves to be honored. Pizzo’s film does the story justice, but just doesn’t quite have all the makings of an all American classic.