Movie Review: McFarland, USA


Release Date: 2/20/15

Kevin Costner in a sports movie is usually a good sign (Tin Cup, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham).  McFarland, USA is no exception.  [Incidentally, Kevin Costner in a non-sports movie is usually a bad sign, unless it’s No Way Out.]  McFarland, USA is based on a true story.  True inspirational sports movies all have one thing in common – if it wasn’t true, you would roll your eyes and say “Oh come on!” because they seem so unbelievable.  [E.g. running a reverse on the final play of the game from your own side of the field to win the state championship; or a group of college kids beating an unbeatable professional hockey team to win an Olympic gold medal – that would never happen in real life.]

A hot-headed ex-football coach (Jim White, played by Costner) takes a group of high school kids who also must help their families in the fields (aka “pickers”) to get by, and turns them into a contenders to win a state championship in Cross-country.  Whaddaya mean, like running?  Not just running!  Something that needs endurance!  Something that needs stamina!  Like, long-distance running!  Cross-country running!

There is no real villain in this movie, and there shouldn’t be.  Running, like swimming or triathlon, isn’t about competing against the guy (or girl) next to you, it’s about competing with yourself and striving to do your best, and overcoming your own inner demons.  They do an excellent job of showing that struggle within each character.  It makes you root for them harder.

One thing I felt was missing from this movie was how the relationship between the community and the coach developed.  This relationship was an essential part of the movie, yet I didn’t understand why this community was so accepting of this outsider coach.  He’s a Caucasian, ill-tempered man who wants to get out of there as soon as he can and isn’t afraid to show it.  The community is a small close-knit Mexican farming community.  Why do they accept him so readily?  Did he do something to earn their respect?

I don’t want to ruin the ending of an inspirational sports movie made by Disney, but if you get tired of watching Prefontaine and want something a little happier this is an excellent choice.

WWYT Rating: 7.00

IMDB Rating: 7.5


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