We Are Marshall

Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Dec. 22. Rated PG. 127 minutes.

"From the ashes, we rose," whispers the earnest narrator of this, the World Trade Center of college-football soapers. Based on the true story of the all-frosh season that followed a West Virginia team's 1970 plane crash, We Are Marshall gets the McG treatment. Tugging the film into post-9/11 allegory, the flashmaster who brought us both Charlie's Angels flicks squanders his primo period setting in favor of this-really-happened clich├ęs involving the eager- beaver new coach (Matthew McConaughey), cautious college prez (David Strathairn), grieving girlfriend (Kate Mara), field-goal kicker brilliantly plucked from the soccer squad, etc. Vietnam, campus unrest, and racial tension merit not a single acknowledgment in a heal-your-heart movie that even overdubs Coach's sacrilegious "damn" with a "darn" to complete the scrubbing. Most surprising is the fact McG, newly graduated to Storytelling 101, would strip the gridiron thrills to a bare minimum in order to emphasize his talky schmaltz; it's as if he thought he was directing a Brian's Song remake. Even by the low standards of the young-jocks-as-good-clean-soldiers movie, there's little at stake, unless you count the kids' hunger to win one for the Gipper. ROB NELSON

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