Many people don’t’ know who Freddie Steinmark is. They don’t know he was an undersized safety for the University of Texas in the late 1960’s. How he impacted people who came in contact with him, or even the type of man he was on and off the field.
My All-American tells Stenmark’s story from his humble beginning at Wheat Ridge High School to playing in front of the President on the biggest stage in college football.
Finn Wittrock (Noah, American Horror Story, Unbroken) plays Steinmark, a young man who loves football, God, and family – it’s not exactly clear in what order. His life is the prototype for the underdog story – a small football standout that isn’t getting any looks from big colleges gets a shot to play the University of Texas for Coach Royal (Aaron Eckhart). Even with the odds stacked against him, Steinmark gives his all and is eventually named starting safety.
Freddie’s life outside of football was even sweeter. He has two loving parents and fell in love with his high school sweetheart Linda Wheeler (Once Upon a Time’s Sarah Bolger). You couldn’t script a better life for a young college kid in the 60’s.
However, life for Freddie takes a turn after a mysterious leg injury reveals he’s in for the biggest fight of his life.
For a film that looks and feels like it should be a Hallmark made-for-tv movie, My All-American is surprisingly well done. Really well done. The acting is good (most of the heavy lifting is by Wittrock and Eckhart), the football scenes are believable, and Wittrock gives off a young Matt Damon charm that makes him fun to watch. Seriously, the kid is great and I’ll be shocked if we don’t see him on the big screen again very soon.
My All-American is a paint-by-numbers sports movie for the first 2/3 but the final act is excellent. The end of the movie is so emotionally effective; it’s hard not to get a little teary eyed. The emotion literally comes out of nowhere and hits you like a ton of bricks. One of the standout scenes invovles Coach Royal telling the team what’s happened to Freddie.
The movie isn’t exempt from its issues – It’s packed with normal sports movie clichés, Freddie seems almost too perfect at times, his faith and current events of the 1960’s feel shoehorned in. Yet, the end of the movie packs such a punch, none of that really matters.
I went into this film expecting to be fighting off sleep the whole time, instead I found myself fighting back tears. The real footage at the end is a tear jerker. My All-American has absolutely no reason being as good as it is. For a film that looks like it should be terrible, it’s a surprisingly effective film about faith, that doesn’t beat you over the head with it, and hard work. It’s not the sports movie I expected, but one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve seen in years.