McFarland, USA (Kevin Costner, Maria Bello) – Regular readers of my reviews know that I am not a Kevin Costner acting fan except in sports movies. McFarland USA is a sports movie, and Costner shines. So often, he seems to phone it in often, as he did in Black or White, the recent film he produced. But he is very good in McFarland despite the fact that this film has been done before.
The beauty of this film is that it will make you cry even though the plot is familiar and the ending predictable. Here is the story: Coach with a temper gets stuck in a poor town with kids destined to lose (sound like Hoosiers?). He finds a handful of kids willing to try (Bad News Bears). They win (Glory Road) or they lose (Bad News Bears – did they lose?).
But McFarland USA is a little different and, thus, a little better. McFarland, California, is a long-forgotten town in the Central Valley where almost everyone is Mexican American and a “picker” – of produce. Jim White is a football coach who can’t keep a job and take the last coaching and teaching position he can get. He is an assistant to the longtime head coach whose team never achieves. That doesn’t last long. But the school needs him to teach because it is tough to keep teachers in a dead-end town. After he spots one of the students running home at close to 15 miles an hour, he decides to start a cross-country team at the school. Recruiting a small, but committed, band of kids, he turns them into a unit, taking them to meets against strong competition and teaching them life lessons while learning a few himself.
This mostly true story is both compelling and emotional. The cross-country team lifts the town, and the town lifts the team.
Heartwarming, rich, and layered, McFarland USA is a Disney film all kids and parents should see.