In "American Anthem," Steve Tevere (Mitch Gaylord) is a talented athlete, a high school football hero and star gymnast, who decided to give it all up. His dad (John Aprea) tells him he gave up. His girl (Barbie doll Janet Jones) tells him he gave up. At which point, though it's early in the movie, you might want to say, "I give up, too."
Those hardy souls who last it out get to watch Gaylord, who will win no gold medals for acting, go through a number of the requisite dark nights of the soul, arguing with his "old man," running through gymnastic routines in his Stallone-style gymnasium in the woods or suffering nightmares of past glories, shot in black and white.
The black-and-white sequences are, if nothing else, a relief from the relentless, but plenty anthemic, color scheme of "American Anthem." In the hands of director Albert Magnoli, there is blue light and gold light and pretty much everything besides natural light. Usually anthems are about something, even something as vague as love for your country, but "American Anthem" is vaguer still -- what's being anthemized here is nothing more than "go for the gold." It's prattle in the guise of a theme, and it makes even the good work in the film ring hollow. When he's not being interrupted by bad rock 'n' roll, composer Alan Silvestri provides a soaring symphonic score, but he's aiming so far higher than what you see on the screen that it's nearly ludicrous.
You might pull many a chin hair puzzling over why three people are credited for story and screen writing when "American Anthem" has no recognizable story or screen writing whatsoever. What Magnoli calls a style may be different from mere ineptitude, but it's not a meaningful difference. Scenes don't follow from one to the next, and the cutting is so fidgety that the emotional content is lost -- here's a film crummy enough to aim at mawkishness and fall short.
American Anthem, at area theaters, is rated PG-13 and contains profanity and mild sexual situations.