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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.44%
Worth A Look: 31.71%
Just Average36.59%
Pretty Crappy: 14.63%
Sucks: 14.63%

6 reviews, 5 user ratings

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We Are Marshall
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not Even The Best Inspirational Sports Melodrama Of The Week"
1 stars

Based on a true story, “We Are Marshall” opens as the football team from Marshall University, located in the town of Huntington, West Virginia, prepares to fly back home after a key loss against East Carolina. As they are about to land, the plane crashes in a nearby forest and all 75 passengers–nearly all the players, coaches and boosters–are killed instantly. It is a devastating blow to the close-knit community, especially for the few members of the team that luckily managed to avoid stepping on that doomed flight. Eventually, a decision has to be made about whether to scrap the football program entirely out of respect for the dead or to revive it for the same reason. Despite protests, the university president (David Strathairn) decides to revive the program but can’t find anyone willing to build a new football program with only three returning players and an assistant coach, Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), who is ridden with guilt over having given up his seat on the plane to another guy so that he could make it to his daughter’s piano recital.

Eventually, the program finds its savior in Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), a brash coach who insists that he is just the man to revive Marshall–the team and, it is implied, the town. In the face of much resistance, Lengyel and Dawson are finally able to field a team when they get a waiver from the NCAA allowing them to use freshmen players on their varsity squad. With all the hopes of the town behind them, Lengyel and Co. kick off the next season by getting crushed on the gridiron, leading to new calls to end the program for good. The only thing that can possibly save them is the first home game a week later–will Lengyel’s program of training montages, melodramatic speeches and weirdly inappropriate hippie vibes be enough to inspire the team to victory and the town out of its depression? I wouldn’t dream of saying one way or another but I will point out that it is extremely unlikely that such a film would have been made if they were beaten there as well.

I will admit that for the first few minutes–the ones leading up to the plane crash–“We Are Marshall” tells its story in a relatively low-key and unfussy manner that belied the fact that the film was directed by McG, the man best-known for such hard-sell whimsy as the “Charlie’s Angels”films. Alas, after those opening scenes, McG lets his baser instincts shine through as the film becomes one relentlessly one-note scene after another in which the characters all serve as walking plot devices (each has their own individual trauma and individual epiphany) and the tear-jerking scenes are amped up to such a degree that even the most sentimentally inclined viewers will find themselves resenting his ceaseless attempts at provoking knee-jerk reactions from the audience instead of actually earning the emotions that it wants to convey. To make sure that viewers never try to think or feel for themselves for a single second, McG also wallpapers the film with a relentless collection of Golden Oldies that grows more and more irritating as things progress.

However, what really dooms “We Are Marshall”–the thing that would have killed its prospects even if the other elements had somehow succeeded–is the truly bizarre and off-putting lead performance from Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel. Most football coaches, especially ones at the college level, seem to come across as pretty staid and straight-laced fellows and therefore, it is impossible to believe McConaughey for a single second in the role–his approach seems to consist of equal parts Harold Hill and Wooderson, the laid-back Lothario he played to perfection in “Dazed and Confused” and is so self-consciously strange that he throws every scene that he appears in out of balance. McConaughey can be a strong actor when working with the right material and director (those who doubt me should check out his exemplary work in “Frailty” and “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing”) so it is clear that he has been asked to act in this manner by his director, possibly to serve as a form of relief from the darker aspects of the story. It doesn’t work and all it does is contribute an unsuccessful layer of failed whimsy to a story that really doesn’t need it.

If you see only one tear-jerking sports-related melodrama this weekend, you should definitely check out the surprisingly enjoyable “Rocky Balboa,” a film that transcends its predictability with a collection of low-key performances and hard-earned sentiment that even the most callous of cynics will find hard to resist. If you are in the mood to see a second tear-jerking sports melodrama this weekend, you should go down to your local DVD emporium and check out the newly-released “Invincible,” a not-too-bad football drama that features an ordinary guy overcoming amazing odds in his quest to play professional football and the sight of Elizabeth Banks in a fetching New York Giants jersey. If you are in the mood for a third such film, you clearly have far too much time on your hands but even so, I am fairly certain that you can find something better to do than waste your time on “We Are Marshall.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15307&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/22/06 00:28:28
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User Comments

1/13/09 Shaun Wallner Very Interesting 3 stars
11/25/08 jsmith It's a true story, underplayed for the most part, which keeps it as real as possible 4 stars
7/05/07 Quigley One of the most moving sports films I've ever seen. 5 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Get past tragedy, it's like every other true sports flick. Call it "Gridiron Pang." 3 stars
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  22-Dec-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2007



Directed by

Written by
  Jamie Linden

  Matthew McConaughey
  Matthew Fox
  David Strathairn
  Ian McShane
  Anthony Mackie
  Brian Geraghty

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