By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Despite the fact that this film embraces just about every sports movie cliche and trope known to film buffs, it wears its heart proudly on its sleeve and does so genuinely. Based on actual inspiring events, McFarland, USA doesn’t reinvent the triumphant sports story. However, it still managed to warm my heart, even as I could easily predict its story and plot. With themes dealing with racial inequality and victory despite limited resources, I have a pretty good hunch it will win the hearts of other movie audiences.
Kevin Costner stars as Jim White, a not-so-successful football coach working in McFarland, a tiny town consisting of mostly hard working Mexican-American farm workers. After a horrendous season of football, he discovers that his students have been participating in the wrong sport the whole time. Athletic and fast on their feet, some of the high school farm workers are recruited to form a cross-country running team. This new activity reinvigorates the spirit and pride of the school and offers the participants a golden opportunity for a brighter future.
Written by Chris Cleveland, and directed by Niki Caro, McFarland, USA offers movie audiences a heartwarming, fun and exciting reason to go to the movies. The kids portrayed in the film should win over even the hardest of hearts. It is a movie that we have already seen, but it has enough charm and personality of its own to make it stand out and higher than some of its predecessors. The writer and director enable the audience to become well connected with the characters, scenarios and the tough obstacles the protagonists have to overcome to succeed. At a certain point in the film, part of me ignored the fact that I knew how moat of it would play out and allowed myself to become engrossed with the trials and tribulations of these lovable characters.
In addition to Costner who delivers an endearing and solid performance, the movie features strong performances by Maria Bello, Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Hector Duran, Sergio Aguilar, Michael Aguero, and Valente Rodriguez. The entire cast performs well which is especially enjoyable when considering how inexperienced the younger members are. They are the real heart and soul of the picture.
I most definitely would not recommend spending top dollar to see McFarland, USA, but it would make for a delightful afternoon trip to the cinema. One may ask, why bother watching another sports story so similar to others? I feel this one has a genuine heart and that shines brightly like the real people who inspire this story.