Title – McFarland, USA (2015)
Director – Niki Caro (Whale Rider)
Cast – Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Carlos Pratts, Ramiro Rodriguez
Plot – Fired from his job as a football coach, Jim White (Costner) moves his family to the fruit picking town of McFarland where he discovers a group of young high school students that may just have what it takes to become elite cross country runners despite their underprivileged upbringings.
“These kids working here are invisible. They come from the fields and they go back to the fields”
Review by Eddie on 25/01/2016
Ah the Disney sports movie. I’m sure we’ve all got our favourite (mines a tie between Remember the Titans and the Mighty Ducks if you’re wondering) and I’m sure we all know what to expect from the Mouse House’s sports tinged productions, from trials over adversity’s, music scored training monologues and fine use of poetic license to tell true stories in a Hollywood themed way. The genre is a well tried and well liked staple of movie fans and McFarland, USA is a finely tuned example of a cookie cutter sports movie that never becomes anything more than we’d expect, and that’s absolutely fine.
The presence of New Zealand born director Niki Caro is certainly a help to McFarland’s non-lofty ambitions, a director who has seen great success in dramas like Whale Rider and North Country and she brings a neat feel to the film here that helps cover up some of the films more pure Disney cheese moments like Kevin Costner’s Jim White’s daughters birthday bash or some stench ridden dialogue that just does not in the slightest ring true. Without Caro on board behind the scenes this tale of cross country runners from the harsh working class town of McFarland could’ve really been lost in an abundance of Disney fluff but with her fine work and that of Kevin Costner’s, the film coasts by as a likeable and fun tale.
Once the biggest movie star in the world, the last few years have seen Kevin Costner try his best to once more become relevant and while The Company Men and to a lesser extent Man of Steel are good examples of decent filmmaking, McFarland is quite possibly his most assured film role in some time and reminds us all that he has a unique presence on camera that is put to good use in his Coach White’s dealing with his rag tag group of cross country runners who mostly hail from poor Mexican families who rely on fruit picking for a living. Whenever Coach White and the boys take centre stage or even the town of McFarland itself, the film really becomes a blast.
Filmed with a nice energy, McFarland, USA is a likeable and enjoyable sports movie romp that delivers a telling of a true life tale that will bring a smile to even the unhappiest of faces. After many years of Disney sports movies and sports movies in general, you should go into this film under no illusions as to what you’re going to get and the results will be exactly what the movie doctor has ordered.
3 ½ enthusiastic flag waving spectators out of 5