Witness the heart of seven real life champions: McFarland, USA

Witness the heart of seven real life champions: McFarland, USA
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About the Author

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen is a journalism graduate from Sheridan College. He specializes in Arts & Entertainment reporting, feature writing and film reviews. Twitter: @ChiefcoOne

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We’ve seen it countless times before: the heroic coach taking on an impossible task of training a team of misfits who are seemingly hopeless and unmotivated to win a championship — McFarland, USA utilizes all of the familiar tropes, yet its true story possesses a certain all-American charm.

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Photo Credit: Disney Studios

Enter Coach Jim White — played by a disgruntled, Dirty Harry mannered Kevin Costner — recently fired from his job as a football coach for breaking a shoe over a mouthy kid’s face. Mr. White moves his family to the small, working class town of McFarland, California. The community is predominantly Hispanic, and White’s family is greeted by a parade of shiny low-riders and mad-dogging stares after a visit to the local Mexican restaurant on their first night.

White takes a job as a physical education teacher and football coach and soon realizes his students are in the wrong sport. Underneath McFarland’s grit and troubled youth is a community that exudes strength and solidarity. After witnessing a student running home from school at lightning speed, Coach White realizes his new town is brimming with potential champion cross country runners.

White picks the seven fastest and hardest working kids he can find and sets off on an odyssey of blood sweat and tears. The characters learn from each other in this motivational exercise in the familiar. White and his students are equally green in this world. They know hard work and brotherhood. They’re fast,  but inexperienced in the science of cross-country running. Behold, a charming learning experience for all involved. A safe, mushy story with thunder that will make viewers want to go out and become champions in their own way.

Director Niki Caro sets the mood with beautiful tracking shots of the runners storming up and down vast mountains and fields behind doomy music that quickly turns inspirational in tone towards the end. Between the climatic showdowns is a purgatory of subplots and family drama that bloats the film into a sort of malaise.

Kevin Costner and Carlos Pratts in McFarland.  Photo Credit: Disney Studios

Kevin Costner and Carlos Pratts in McFarland. Photo Credit: Disney Studios

Costner and his team of young actors — including Carlos Pratts, who plays the troubled MVP, Thomas Valles — bring McFarland, USA together as a solid Disney sports drama. Is it cliché? Yes. Is it shameless in its quest for feel-good treachery and white knight ridiculousness? Of course.

But it has heart.

McFarland USA opened last night and is showing locally at Film.ca.

Show times this weekend are:

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Great review Nick! Can’t wait for the next one.

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