Movie Review: McFarland, USA

McFarland, USA is a "feel good" movie, but it's also a true story: at the end of the film, we see the actual people that the movie is based on, which I loved. The film is set in 1987 and tells the story of a group of gifted runners at a McFarland, CA, high school. Though they're fast, the kids' school doesn't have a track team, and since most of the students help their families as pickers in the fields, there's not a lot of time for extracurricular activities.

Jim White (Kevin Costner) moves his family to McFarland after getting fired from his last school, and becomes the football coach. McFarland has a mostly Hispanic population, and the school's football team is rather dismal. During PE class (he's also the PE coach), Jim sees that many of the students are actually really fast runners; however, the school has no track or cross country teams. He decides to form a team, but he doesn't realize at first how much these kids are sacrificing to be on the team - as one parent puts it, (paraphrasing) "for every hour that my son trains with you, that is an hour that he doesn't work in the fields with me." Jim must figure out a balance for the team's kids between work, school, and cross country, and in the process they will try to become cross country champions.

This movie is a little bit slow, but has a good plot. Although overall I enjoyed Costner more in last month's Black or White, he's always good in all of his roles, and I enjoyed seeing him in this film too. McFarland's story is so interesting because it's true, and since 1987, the school has gone on to win fourteen cross country championships; you can read more about it on its Wikipedia page. A lot of the kids on the team had never raced competitively, too, but with hard work and training they were able to become the best of the best.

Yes, see this movie. It's extremely family-friendly, too - it's rated PG and I can't recall any profanity being used in the film. The cast all worked very well, especially Costner, and what's interesting is that one of the actors who plays one of the kids is actually FROM McFarland. I found the movie's story to be an interesting and compelling one, and be sure to stick around through the credits, where we get to meet the actual people involved in the story and find out where they went after graduating McFarland High School and what their occupations are today in 2015.

McFarland, USA is in theaters today, February 20th, and is rated PG with a runtime of 128 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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