SPOILERS (That is, if you even want to see this movie)
First, let me get a few things out of the way.
One: due to my family upbringing and some incredibly fortunate events, like the opportunity to attend the 2006 National Championship between Texas and USC, I grew up a Longhorn fan. By the grace of God and a back injury that ended my football career at Hardin-Simmons University, my path in life came to Texas Tech. I am a better person because of that school and the people around it. However, I will always have a soft spot for the old Texas legends like Tommy Nobis, Major Applewhite, Earl Campbell, and Freddie Steinmark. It's the way I was raised. I can't help it.
Two: This is not about bashing Freddie Steinmark. His autobiography, titled "I Play To Win", is incredible. No matter who you root for, Freddie Steinmark is a guy who did everything the right way. He was a freaking Spartan, the kind of man you rally around when the worst has come to pass. No one played through pain the way he did, and I doubt anyone ever will. That's why the movie about him pissed me off so much.
The best thing you can say about My All American is that it's historically accurate. Freddie Steinmark is everything the book and movie says he is, and most likely more. I don't think that there's a single person on record with anything bad to say about him. He really did have to have his leg amputated due to bone cancer. He actually did partially inspire Nixon to start the War on Cancer. The entire film just wreaks of something being thrown together without much care to presentation. There is a way to do these types of movies. We saw it with Unbroken, the film about Louis Zamperini. Schindler's List is the best movie I'll never watch ever again because of the way it depicted the Holocaust. Remember the Titans is the golden standard for how to make a feel-good sports movie. My All American falls short, and it's definitely not because of the source material it draws from.
For starters, the opening scene with Darrell Royal telling the reporter about how Freddie Steinmark is "his All-American" should have been at the end. Someone honestly thought to themselves, "Hey, you know that scene where we reminisce on what a great man Steinmark was and we see his lasting impact on one of the men he impacted the most, who is also an integral part of the story? Let's put half of it at the beginning and not the end". How you screw that up so monumentally is beyond me. The audience has zero connection to Steinmark or Royal yet, unless you're a die-hard Texas fan. You know what's a great idea? Let's alienate every single person that is hearing the story for the first time. It's only the beginning of the pandering that came throughout the entire film. The film could've been from the perspective of a dang Darrell Royal flashback and it could've been better
Fifteen minutes in, and the movie has already made 3 scenes attempt to feel like the climax of the film. I understand that Freddie Steinmark's story is highly emotional. But does every single scene have to feel like the end? It seems like the filmmakers tried too hard to make every single thing about this movie feel like the pinnacle of Freddie's career, even when it clearly isn't for anyone who knows his story.
20 minutes into the movie, and we have four pushes for emotion. This story does not need anyone to try to interject emotion into it. Merely telling the story in a linear fashion is enough. It goes back to the Darrell Royal scene at the beginning which sums up the My All American's failed attempt at garnering emotion. Pushing more feelings into it doesn't help, it feels like extreme pandering.
One of the bright spots of the movie is the acting, and even then it's a stretch. Aaron Eckhart does a pretty good job at playing Darrell Royal, and I particularly liked Iron Mike and Juston Street as his father, James Street as well. You can tell Eckhart forced the Texan accent a little, but in all honesty it's hard to pull off the drawl. My only beef is that IT'S CALLED THE WISHBONE, NOT THE TRIPLE OPTION, AARON.
Every five minutes the movie tries way too hard to tug at your heartstrings. After around an hour, you just become numb. Everything becomes much less powerful when it's driven down your throat. One of Freddie's lasting impacts was on his roommate and friend, Bobby Mitchell. When the movie came to the point where Bobby's brother dies in Vietnam, it felt like I had to push myself to feel something. That should not be a scene where the viewer has to deliberately force himself to care. I saw My All American with my father. He grew up on Texas Football, and was alive during the time Steinmark played. He was moved by the scene, but I felt this extreme disconnect. It was almost like the movie was exclusively for those who were alive during that point in time, which is no way to tell a story.
The "Game of the Century" scenes and the doctor's office scenes were done well. The only problem is that they feel like every single other scene in the movie. If you only heard the soundtrack for the Game of the Century scenes and edited out the dialogue, you'd be hard pressed to tell wether it was about Freddie talking to his girlfriend for the first time, winning a game in high school, or getting a scholarship. The intensity that was thrust upon the viewer in the earlier scenes dampened the climax of the movie. This is it, this is the part where you're supposed to feel the pain of Steinmark, Royal, Mitchell, Street, and everyone else in the movie. But you don't, because this movie is one massive climax that seems to attempt to make every inconsequential thing feel the same.
In the end, I'm not pissed off that I watched a bad movie. That happens from time to time. I'm pissed off because the Freddie Steinmark story deserved better than this. Everyone learns the progression of a story in high school English. You have a rising action, a climax, and a falling action. It's easy to create something good with a correct mixture of these three things. This movie has a 1-minute rising action, an hour and a half climax, and around 5 minutes of falling action. This movie did everything right in terms of accuracy. What it didn't do was use that accuracy well. In a ridiculously strange, roundabout way, this movie was just like Freddie Steinmark himself. It pushed and scratched and clawed until the credits. Unlike Freddie Steinmark, this movie failed in the end.