Starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Carlos Pratts, Ramiro Rodriguez, Morgan Saylor, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar
Directed By: Niki Caro
Disney is really good at making uplifting sports dramas. Don’t believe me? Remember The Titans, The Rookie, Glory Road, Miracle, The Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, Angels In The Outfield, etc. I actually can’t think of a bad Disney sports film. Maybe Snow Dogs… if you count that as a sports movie. McFarland USA is another in a long tradition of excellent Disney sports dramas. Part of it has to do with Kevin Costner, but part of it really has to do with the great casting department and their discovery of some really fantastic unknown hispanic actors.
As a standout, Carlos Pratts has the most to do as Thomas, but all the boys do great jobs in their roles. So does the largely unknown supporting cast. The only “names” here are Costner and Bello, but the talent runs so much deeper than that. McFarland is a small town in California populated largely by families of “pickers”. Costner plays Jim White, a real person, who moves to McFarland and starts coaching a cross country team for their school when he sees how terrific the boys in the school can run. Ultimately, because this is an uplifting sports drama, he teaches the kids important life lessons, and the kids also teach him important lessons. They grow from each other.
You might think it’s super sappy, and you’d probably be right. It’s sappy done right though, and sometimes that’s OK. I didn’t mind it so much here. I wouldn’t have wanted to watch a movie about a bunch of poor kids who try to start a cross country team and fail epically at it. What’s the point of that film?
You should catch McFarland USA before it leaves theatres. It’s definitely one of the better films I’ve seen this year, which hasn’t been very good for movies so far.
FINAL GRADE: A-