Jim White moves his family after losing his last job as a football coach. He sees that some of the students are worth starting a cross-country team and turns seven students with no hope into one of the best cross-country teams.
A struggling coach and teacher who has had to move around for different incidents in his career finally comes to one of the poorest cities in America: McFarland, California. There he discovers buried potential in several high school boys and slowly turns them into championship runners and brings them closer than even he could ever imagine.
McFarland USA is much more than the regular feel good sports movie. The setting, acting, music, and story line blend perfectly to deliver a heart-warming tale. It is a film that touches all sides of this true story to make it stand out against the rest. By the time it's all done, you will feel like part of the McFarland family.
Kevin Costner plays Jim White, a coach whose anger forces him move to a struggling, McFarland, California, where he begins a job teaching science and gym. In this predominately Latino town Jim and his family experience a culture they hadn't been exposed to in Boise, Idaho. Very early on something about these kids catches Jim's eye, their ability to run. With a little bit of work and convincing of some students and the school administration, Jim creates a cross-country team that he believes, can achieve greatness.
The setting for this movie perfectly captures the feel for McFarland. Featuring plenty of dead grass, roaming dogs, endless fields, and low riders with ridiculous paint jobs, the viewer gets a feel for the town at the very beginning of the movie. Most of the people in this town are migrant workers. The run down buildings, chipping paint, and collapsing school display the poverty level of the town quite clearly. With a prison located across the street from the school, it is made clear that most kids have the choice of going to jail, or working in the fields. While the town is rather plain, the director did a great job of capturing the beautiful mountains and landscapes of the surrounding area. In addition to the beautiful scenery, the music chosen makes it feel like there is a mariachi band right in your room. The setting as a whole was delivered in a way that makes the viewer understand the economic state of the town and the surrounding area, which is a big help in supporting the plot.
Every singe one of the actors in this movie played the role perfectly. I was stunned by the amount of character development in such a short period of time. By the end of the movie, you will feel connected to every character. Kevin Costner seems to be simply playing himself, but Carlos Pratts steals the show with his amazing portrayal of Thomas Valles. During a training session, Thomas has an emotional break down due to the combination of a stressful life at home and the endless cycle of poverty that the people of McFarland can't seem to break. It is here that the crying, shouting, angry voice of Thomas spills all the struggles of the migrant workers and the lives they live. The characters and the writing also allow for some comic relief. A man who's last name is White struggles to pronounce Hispanic names, and the stock character of a chubby Danny Diaz who is trying his best to keep up with the rest of the team.
I'm impressed that the movie didn't contain a crazy amount of over dramatizations, because we all know that is the worst thing in the world. Considering it's a Disney sports movie based on a true story, you should know how it ends before you even watch it. I highly recommend you watch it anyways. It contains scenes that leave your hands sweating and your heart beating, and creates feelings similar to the first time you ever saw the Italian Stallion beat Apollo Creed in the ring. When it's all said and done, the town of McFarland, and especially its cross-country team, will hold a special place in your heart. Before you watch this movie, make sure your mom signs the permission slip, because you're about to go on a feel trip.
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