Saturday, February 21, 2015

McFarland, USA offers hope and excitement

Director: Nico Caro

Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Running time: 129 Minutes

Cast: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Juanes, Morgan Saylor, Carlos Pratts, Martha Higareda, Valente Rodriguez, Johnny Ortiz

Review by James Colt Harrison

Popping out of the Disney patriotic bin is the exciting and inspirational film from veteran star Kevin Costner. Recently scoring with his film Black and White that shows another side of Americana, this time Costner tackles race relations with Hispanic-Americans.

The movie was inspired by a 1987 real-life event that took place in the tiny farming town of McFarland, California. The area in the Central Valley is economically challenged, and the people mainly are farm laborers with little chance at succeeding in life. Something to uplift their spirits is indicated to bring happiness and success to the people who live there.

Coach Jim White (played realistically by Kevin Costner) arrives in their small town to build up the track team at the local high school. The school is predominantly a Latino high school, and Costner also has to learn to fit in with the boys on the team. The school has never had much success with athletics and it is up to White to mold the boys into shape in order to compete with other high schools in the championship runs.

White immediately notices the boys have incredible running ability but have no discipline nor expert training. It’s a rag-tag bunch of talented boys who need direction. It’s also an opportunity for White and the boys to learn about each other, to see what their differences are, and what they also might have in common. They struggle to find a common bond and realize that family relationships are powerful and the connecting tissue between the boys, their families and White’s family. Maria Bello play’s White’s wife but Is given little to do, and is the fate of most actresses to day.

There is a smattering of suspense when the boys are training for the big game, but the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Audience enjoyment is gotten from the hard work the boys put in to make it to the championship game. They struggle, they run up mountains, they sweat, they threaten to quit, they collapse. What else did you expect? It’s Costner’s job as Coach White to talk them into realizing how important it is for them to practice, practice, practice and then practice some more for the glory of their school and their community. Costner is good at this sort of thing, as he acts much like a father or a big brother to encourage the boys.

The boys are talented and go on to win many prizes in the history of the school. The story is a well-known commodity because of the phenomenal 24-year streak of wins at the State Championships. Because of this true story, much of the suspense and surprise of the film is evaporated as we already know the end results. But it remains an inspiring look at what can be accomplished by a small-town group of determined and talented running young men.

The film is a feather in the cap of the Latino community and should serve as an example of what a good education and good clean athletics can do for its young men. The entire family will enjoy the movie. It’s pleasant entertainment for everyone.

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