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My All American: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

My All American (2015) movie poster My All American

Theatrical Release: November 13, 2015 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Angelo Pizzo / Writers: Angelo Pizzo (screenplay); Jim Dent (book Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story)

Cast: Aaron Eckhart (Coach Darrell Royal), Finn Wittrock (Freddie Steinmark), Sarah Bolger (Linda Wheeler), Robin Tunney (Gloria Steinmark), Michael Reilly Burke (Fred Steinmark), Rett Terrell (Bobby Mitchell), Juston Street (James Street), Todd Allen (Father Bomar), Brent Anderson (Coach Campbell), Brett Brock (Coach Bellard), Hector Becerra (Medina), Alex MacNicoll (Mike Campbell), Richard Kohnke (Tom Campbell), Donny Boaz (Bill Bradley), Eddie Davenport (Randy Peschel), Austin Willis (Steve Worsler), Jordan Spears Shipley (Cotton Speyrer)

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There can be no mistaking the genre to which My All American belongs. Between its wholesome title, PG rating, tagline crediting it to the writer of Rudy and Hoosiers, and obligatory "Based on a True Story" disclaimer,
this film is an inspirational true sports drama. There are tons of those to which this film will be compared. But screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, making his directorial debut, had to know that going in, with all three of his previous scripts having been inspirational sports dramas, two of which were also true stories (Rudy and The Game of Their Lives, a.k.a. The Miracle Match).

My All American has a true story that many will not know about going in. It tells us of Freddie Steinmark. The film opens in the fall of 2010, with longtime University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart, heavily aged for this prologue) being interviewed, as his memory fails him. He cites Steinmark as the greatest player he ever coached and when he's told by the young student journalist that Steinmark wasn't an all-American, he gives the film its title, "No, but he was my All-American."

We then journey back to 1960, when Freddie is just a kid in Colorado. Smaller than most of his peers, Freddie works harder to get ahead, training with his father after practice every day and playing for multiple competitive teams. By the fall of '66, Freddie (now and henceforth played by The Big Short's Finn Wittrock) is in high school and dreaming of playing for Notre Dame and the hometown NFL team, the Denver Broncos. Having broken his school's scoring records in both basketball and football, Freddie is a big deal and the most popular kid in school. Girls swoon, but one girl, Linda (Sarah Bolger), catches his eye with nothing more than an attentive gaze. They become an item and as luck would have it, both are destined for the University of Texas, Freddie having been extended a full scholarship to play safety by Coach Royal and Linda having persuaded her parents to study there.

"My All American" stars Finn Wittrock as Freddie Steinmark, an undersized University of Texas safety with a huge heart.

The remainder of the film depicts Freddie's college years, starting in the fall of 1967. Freddie becomes the starting safety in his sophomore year and his defense leads the Longhorns to all kinds of success. If you didn't already know coming in, then you might start realizing that this film is cut from the same cloth as Brian's Song, Bang the Drum Slowly, and The Pride of the Yankees. Shortly before the halfway mark, Freddie starts complaining about knee pain. To help his team, he plays through the pain, as they take on the University of Arkansas in a much-anticipated showdown that is even attended by the President of the United States.

Given lots of screentime with gridiron action that grows tedious, that will end up being Freddie's final game for Texas or anyone else, though he takes great pains to be in attendance for the team's follow-up match in the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame.

My All American is a pure-hearted film that fails to distinguish itself in any huge way. It amounts to hagiography for Steinmark, who is evidently still held up as a college football hero, particularly to Longhorns. Heavy-handed at times and a little corny throughout, the movie has its heart in the right place and a can-do attitude that ignores the many inspirational sports dramas that have come before it. I mean could anyone not love the sweet, personable, hard-working jock who perseveres, is there for his roommate/teammate who loses his brother in Vietnam, and puts his team before himself?

Wittrock is good in the lead role. It's the kind of turn that could have made him a star had the movie taken off at all. Eckhart is also good, particularly after he gets past that tricky opening. He's so convincing as a sideline presence, you wonder how he hasn't played a coach since Any Given Sunday back in 1999. The rest of the cast is okay, not standing out in either a good or bad way, nor having much opportunity to do so. The closest to an attention-getter is Marco Perella as Finn's doctor, but mostly for the fact that he looks significantly older than he did in last year's Boyhood (understandable, since his scenes in Richard Linklater's coming-of-age epic were filmed something like 9 years ago).

Top-billed Aaron Eckhart is at ease playing legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal.

Pizzo makes a passable directing debut. He opts for more busy camerawork than he needs to,
but at least he shows a genuine interest in the material and does a decent job of making it interesting, at least up through the overlong Arkansas game.

The fourth theatrical release of rebranded two-year-old distributor Aviron Pictures, formerly Clarius Entertainment, My All American stumbled at the box office, opening in 1,500 theaters during football's regular season and failing to even crack the Top 10. Its $872 per theater opening weekend average was the 68th worst ever for a wide release (36th worst ever, adjusted for inflation) and its staggering 73% plummet while shedding only 250 theaters gave it the 38th biggest second weekend drop to date. Closing just seventeen days after opening, the film ended with just $2.2 million domestically and not a dollar overseas. Reportedly, the film cost $20 million to produce, meaning it lost about that much, if not more, when you account for marketing and other costs.

With professional football's season recently ended, My All American hits stores this week desperate to be discovered in a DVD and a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

My All American: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

My All American looks stellar on Blu-ray, the 2.40:1 transfer exhibiting no shortcomings and shows off the predominantly sunny, largely outdoor photography very well. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio provides the atmosphere you expect of games, practices, and miscellany.

Longtime writer, first-time director Angelo Pizzo discusses "The Spirit of Freddie Steinmark." "A Look Inside 'My All American'" shares behind-the-scenes footage from a game shoot.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

My All American is joined by two short bonus features on each disc.

"The Spirit of Freddie Steinmark" (2:57) is basically an extended trailer, with talking heads (from cast to crew to friends of Steinmark) adding some perspective.

"A Look Inside My All American" (2:39) provides more behind-the-scenes footage but another surface scratch of the film's creation.

The discs open with trailers for The Young Messiah, Woodlawn, Big Stone Gap, and 90 Minutes in Heaven.

The simple static menu is a scored variation of the poster/cover art. The Blu-ray lets you resume the movie but starts playing trailers while you make up your mind if you want that.

The two silver discs share a keepcase, whose artwork is reproduced in an embossed slipcover, with an insert supplying your Digital HD code and advertising "family favorites" on Blu-ray.

Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) makes a dramatic appearance at the Cotton Bowl pitting Texas against Notre Dame in the film's climax.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Whether you enjoy My All American really comes down
to how much you appreciate an inspirational sports drama and how much the story of a somewhat unknown 1960s college football hero resonates for you. While the film failed to attract an audience in theaters, it shouldn't gravely disappoint anyone, even those who are extremely familiar with the genre. Universal's combo pack is light on extras, but treats the film to strong picture and sound.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Black Mass The 33 Secret in Their Eyes Steve Jobs | Written by Angelo Pizzo: The Miracle Match
Football: Remember the Titans Invincible Any Given Sunday Concussion Undefeated All Things Fall Apart Draft Day
True Sports Dramas: The Mighty Macs Miracle McFarland, USA Glory Road
Finn Wittrock: The Big Short Winter's Tale Noah Halloweentown High
Aaron Eckhart: Battle: Los Angeles Erased Olympus Has Fallen The Rum Diary
Sarah Bolger: The Spiderwick Chronicles From Up on Poppy Hill | Robin Tunney: Empire Records

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Reviewed February 24, 2016.



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