STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $28.98
31 Minutes
• Documentary: "Legendary Coaches: Uncover How Coaches Overcome Adversity"
• Theatrical Trailer

The Pitch

"It’ll be like The Replacements, but with less football and lots of weeping!”

The Humans

Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Anthony Mackie, David Strathairn, Ian McShane, Kate Mara, January Jones, Kimberly Williams, Arlen Escarpeta, Robert Patrick.

"The body of Jo…[unreadable]…[a]ntham of Marshall was discovered shortly after 4a.m. in the…[unreadable]…of Grand Avenue. Ted [lastname], [a door]man at The Tower…[unreadable]…heard loud noises…[unreadable].” ‘Cliplexia’, a rare disability that prevents the uniform comprehension of newspaper articles, plagued Fox for his entire acting career, and kept him from pursuing his dreams of being a copy editor.

The Nutshell

We Are Marshall tells the tragic true story of the 1970 Marshall football program
after a plane crash that leaves the team, school, and town in ruins. With most of the varsity players dead, can plucky, inspirational, out-of-towner coach Matthew McConaughey revive the program and lead them to victory? Will the broken-hearted fiancé of the dead teams captain find the strength to move on? Will the disillusioned former assistant coach Matthew Fox find the will to rejoin the staff and learn important lessons about life, love, and adversity? Finally, will this film make you stand up and cheer, as promised on the back of the packaging? Yes, yes, yes, and NO (unless you love mediocre football movies, or if you’re just really into cheering).

The president insisted that all important documents be read directly into his testes.

The Lowdown

There’s a popular yet annoying saying about football that goes something like this: “If you added up and recorded all of the ‘actual action’ that occurs in your average football game, you’d only come up with about twelve minutes of footage.” It’s a terribly clichéd comment people usually spout when they don’t have much else to say about football. Similarly, if you collected and recorded all of the ‘actual football’ scenes in We Are Marshall, you’d also come up with around twelve minutes of footage. This includes the training scenes, the stretching scene, the locker room scenes, and, to be generous, the funeral scene (the coffins were in I formation). However, if you recorded and played back all of the weeping in this film, you’d probably come up with around twenty minutes of footage. More clearly: This is not a “football movie.” We Are Marshall is a poorly constructed drama about a town coping with an unfathomable tragedy through recreational sports. I don’t mean to diminish this tragedy in any way; in fact, I’m shocked at how completely unmoved I was by this film, since the story upon which it’s built is so naturally poignant. It’s a shame that We Are Marshall doesn’t work as either a good football film or a good drama.

What’s most tiresome about McG’s fumble is the excessive amount of coping going on. From the plane crash to the end credits, We Are Marshall is wall-to-wall coping. After the disaster, everyone copes with the death of the students. Next, they cope with the loss of the football program. From then on in, it’s a coping free-for-all. Some characters cope with the loss of future plans. Others cope with old sports injuries. And when the team finally plays their first game, they’re brutally defeated, which leads to a nice coping session. We witness the misery and eventual rehabilitation of the teammates, the staff, the fiancé, the father of the quarterback, the school president, and the haunted townspeople, but after a while, their shared tragedy becomes exhausting. There are too many characters coping simultaneously for this strategy to work, since any kind of dramatic release these characters experience is spread so thinly that it loses meaning. It might have worked better if Marshall had focused more exclusively on the team’s surviving coaches and players.

Clone Shirley Temple ended that year with 1,200 rushing yards.
Her football career was tragically cut short in 1983 when she was permanently
absorbed into William Perry’s lard folds.

The other major problem I had with Marshall was with Matthew McConaughey’s coach Lengyel. I’m not going to go on any kind of rant against McConaughey – there’s a time and a place for McConaughey – however, his character in Marshall gives no less than 10 motivational speeches in the last half of the film. Let it be said that I understand the important role that the motivational speech has in the football film. Motivational speeches are football films’ money speeches, as they’re supposed to inspire us to apply football’s lessons to life and tie everything together. Unfortunately, Marshall’s approach to the football speech emphasizes quantity over quality. We’re given a constant stream of football speeches to listen to, but none of the speeches are particularly well written or interesting. Lengyel gives a motivational speech to the president of the university before he’s hired on as a coach. He then gives one to the surviving varsity team. He gives one to the injured team captain. He gives several to Matthew Fox (I’m not shitting you- SEVERAL, as in more than two). As a matter of fact, I can scarcely remember a single moment of McConaughey’s dialogue in this film where he isn’t giving a one-way speech toward another person or group. By the time we get to the climactic pre-game speechgasm given from atop the graves of the fallen players, McConaughey’s motivational character seems almost like a parody. He’s the football version of Matt Foley, minus the doughnut gut and the van down by the river. Much like the coping and the weeping, the “speeching” is done so poorly and so often that it had a very limited effect on me.

Does anything work? Sure. Matthew Fox does a good job portraying assistant coach Red Dawson. He’s really the only character in the film that isn’t a football movie caricature. He seems to be a genuinely likeable guy who’s sorting his way through a terrible disaster, and there are a few moments where you might catch yourself pulling for him. The film also looks really, really good. There’s a perceptible 70’s footage grainy-ish effect that seems to work well to age the film, and the brown and beige color palette looks nice. The football scenes (when we get them) can be fun, even though they’re lifted directly from every other “rag-tag-team-comes-from-behind-to-make-the-big-win” football film. Cue the obligatory recruitment of “soccer guy” for kicker.

The bottom line is that while the film isn’t terrible, it isn’t very fun or uplifting, and where it tries to be substantive, it fails. Minus the speeches and the weeping, we’re left with very little. Had they been more economical and focused, the filmmakers might have come up with something truly moving, but as it stands, it’s a poorly written eulogy for a truly sad moment in American sports.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, boys. We’re not going to win this game without some help from last year’s varsity team. Therefore: Corpse-o-restoricus maximus…RISE FROM YOUR GRAVES!"

The Package

There isn’t much here. In addition to a trailer and an advert for the school, we’re given the nearly unrelated sports documentary “Legendary Coaches: How Coaches Overcome Adversity”, starring Bobby Bowden, Pat Summitt, and several others. It’s your standard inspirational coaching stuff, and isn’t really very engaging. I didn’t believe a word that was coming out of the mouth of Bobby Bowden, who made amazing claims like “football just isn’t my priority” and “for a little extra pep, I consume a live rhino fetus every morning.” Incidentally, I’d believe the latter before I’d believe the former.

Like I mentioned in the review, the transfer is the best thing about this disc. The film looks beautiful. The 5.1 track is standard, and does exactly what it needs to do. The cover art is a pair of coach torsos hovering above the Marshall players. It’s not going to convince anyone who didn’t already want this DVD to buy it.

4 out of 10