Really ugly plaid sport coats, the kind they wore in 1971 (generally along with a short fat striped tie), do a lot for Matthew McConaughey in We Are Marshall, a sports movie based on a real-life tragedy. The duds lend him a nerdish heartland quirkiness, something to balance out his natural-born egomaniacal moxie. As Jack Lengyel, who is hired to restart the Marshall University football program after most of the team perishes in a plane crash, McConaughey wears plastered-down hair like something out of a bad yearbook photo, and he has a hunched, turtlish gaze. This coach means well, but he's a bit out to lunch, and that's his power. Facing an impossible situation, he's the only one not pious about it, and that's why he can help the townsfolk get over it.
His job is easier than the movie's. Watching We Are Marshall, we're caught between dueling sentimentalities: The film keeps insisting that we mourn for a team we didn't know, yet the new team assembled by Lengyel, who gets the NCAA to bend its rule about whether freshmen can play, is the most colorless of movie sports squads. The director, believe it or not, is McG, the wizard of jet-fueled camp kinetics who made the Charlie's Angels films, and though he has the wit to score training montages to ''Suite: Judy Blue Eyes'' and ''Peace Train,'' he's a fumbler at square old human drama. We Are Marshall has little of the bone-crunching sincerity of the recent pigskin rouser Invincible. This one is more like Unconvincing.