We Are Marshall

MoviesEntertainmentSportsAnthony MackieMatthew McConaugheyKate MaraThe Daily Show (tv program)

"We Are Marshall" pushes schmaltz to its limits (and beyond) in telling a true-life sports tale, resulting in a movie perfect for audiences who find Hallmark cards a little too subtle.

Tragedy struck a small West Virginia town in 1970 when a plane crash claimed the lives of the majority of local Marshall University's football team and coaching staff. "Marshall" focuses on the efforts to rebuild the football program for the following season, led by new coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey).

An admirable subject, but heavy-handed direction and a severely misguided lead performance undercut the story's inherent power.

Director McG may seem a long way from his previous work on the "Charlie's Angels" films, but he simply replaced extreme campy action with extreme sentimentality. There's obviously not much room for nuance in his work, which, you know, is fine when Cameron Diaz traipses around in a bikini, but not appropriate when a filmmaker tackles fact-based tragedy.

McConaughey, equally out of his depth, comes off clownishly. In an apparent attempt to mimic his real life counterpart, the former "Sexiest Man Alive" goes embarrassingly over the top, relying heavily on physical tics and talking out of the corner of his mouth with an accent vaguely reminiscent of Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" parodies of George W. Bush.

Fortunately, Matthew Fox (Jack on TV's "Lost") picks up the slack and truly delivers in his first major film role. His emotionally resonant work helps counterbalance the film's shortcomings. David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck."), Anthony Mackie ("Half Nelson") and Kate Mara ("Brokeback Mountain") also deliver solid, credible supporting performances.

Which brings us to the other tragedy here: the movie's inability to match those fine efforts.

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MoviesEntertainmentSportsAnthony MackieMatthew McConaugheyKate MaraThe Daily Show (tv program)