Friday, June 12, 2015

McFarland, U.S.A.

by Al Kessel

Disney makes a LOT of true life movies. Movies about real stories that inspire, uplift and just make you feel good. Sometimes though, they put one out that REALLY delivers on all of those things. McFarland, USA is one of those movies that delivers, and in a big way!

A little synopsis before I go much farther: McFarland USA is the story of Jim White, a high school teacher and (at first) football coach. Seems Mr. White can't hold on to a teaching job long enough to get tenure - he's passion and no-nonsense attitude tend to get him...well, replaced, often. It's 1986-87, and now Mr. White is making one last move (hopefully) to a small town in Southern California called McFarland. A VERY small town, with a very large and rich Latino culture.
Kevin Costner as Jim White
As Coach White attempts to fit in as a football coach, he butts heads with the head coach and winds up being asked to step down from the assistant coaches position. However, as he's watching some of the mis-assigned players, he notices something: they're fast. VERY fast. So he hatches a plan to create a cross-country running team and pits his runners against some of California's best. Of course, it's not an easy task at first. He encounters a great many obstacles - teens who need to prioritize family needs above the needs of an ambitious track coach. Of course, there's a GREAT deal more to this movie, but you get the picture. We URGE you to see it for yourself.

McFarland Cross-Country's 1st Competition
Like I said, this movie is based on a true story. A very inspirational story of underdogs triumphing over tremendous obstacles. Underdogs who refuse to quit, even in the face of very bad odds. A veritable David and Goliath story. This heartwarming drama follows (very) novice runners in a predominantly Latino high school, who learn as much from their new coach as he does from them. In true Disney fashion, McFarland, USA tells the story through both sets of eyes, and everyone learns about the power of family, commitment and compromise. 

Academy Award Winner Kevin Costner (Dances With
Maria Bello and Kevin Costner
Wolves, The Untouchables) stars as Coach Jim White and does a fantastic job of bringing White's passion for his team to the screen. Maria Bello (Prisoners, Duets), plays Cheryl White, Jim's wife, Morgan Saylor (Homeland) plays Julie White, their teenaged daughter, and Carlos Pratts (Paranormal Activity) plays team captain Tommy Valles. The cast all seemed to mesh together quite well, and it's kind of easy to visualize them as the actual people they portray. 

Carlos Pratts as Tommy Valles
When we first heard about McFarland, USA, I'll admit I didn't think it would be very good. Yeah...another sports movie about underdogs...but, about RUNNING?! I'm VERY pleased to admit that I was wrong. Very wrong. McFarland, USA is one of the more underrated movies of the year, and (in our opinion) well worth a watch. Of course, some facts were changed a bit for the movie, but the overall theme of the story, and the actual event outcomes remained the same. It really is a 'feel good' movie. In fact, you could even call it the Rocky for runners! :) 

McFarland, USA is available on Digital HD, Blu-Ray + Digital HD and DVD. Bonus Features include:

  • Digital HD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD combo:
    • McFarland Reflections (a nice featurette that takes us on a visit to the real town of McFarland)
    • "Juntos" Music Video
    • Inspiring McFarland (meet the REAL 1987 McFarland team)
    • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • DVD
    • "Juntos" Music Video
    • Inspiring McFarland
Although the movie is long, (129 minutes), it moves pretty fast and there's really no 'filler' scenes. Throughout the movie, we felt like we got to know the characters well enough to actually care about them. But, that's kind of what Disney does best, right?
The real Jim White and his winning team
All in all, McFarland, USA is a surprise hit, and a truly heartwarming, inspiring film. Joyce and I both loved it a great deal, and, on the 're-watch' meter, it's a definite YEP! We BOTH give McFarland, USA TWO thumbs up!! 

We'd love to know YOUR thoughts on the movie. How about sending us your review/thoughts to 

 - Al 

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