“McFarland, USA” shows Disney’s ability to take a true story and transform it into something meaningful for viewers.
The movie opens when Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, moves with his family to the poor, largely Mexican-American town called McFarland when he loses his previous job as a football coach.
He gets a new job at McFarland High school teaching P.E. and a science class.
White learns that high school boys in McFarland have to work in the fields to support their families, and he notices that they have developed fitness from running to and from school as well as from working in the fields. He therefore decides to start a cross-country team that helps the teenagers free themselves from their difficult lives.
The team encounters many obstacles in the sport that is predominantly run mostly by wealthier white schools.
Although the film follows the predictable underdog sports movie theme, director Niki Caro still manages to keep viewers interested.
She incorporates comedy into the movie to give it the light tone of a typical Disney movie, often humorously portraying at the family and food-oriented Mexican culture.
Sub-plots within the film help to excite the audience. The movie is not entirely about the cross-country but also about the lives of the team members within the poor agricultural town.
The acting in the film is satisfactory; however, it is Kevin Costner who brings the film to life.
His sincere performance in the role of the relentlessly determined coach entertains viewers while keeping emotionally invested.
The film also includes a strong performance from Carlos Pratts, who plays Thomas, the top runner on the team. Although Pratts is not a well-known actor, his ability to put emotion into his role enhances the film.
While the plot line for the movie may not be anything outside of the typical sports film, the underlying themes of racial and economic inequality within sports shine through to differentiate it from the rest.
“McFarland, USA” is rated PG by the MPIAA for violence and harsh labor conditions.