McFarland, USA Movie Review
Kevin Costner. Sports. Movie? Yes, please.
Costner is back, still seeking his big comeback with another sports movie--the formulaic, feel-good kind that Disney produces on an annual basis. McFarland USA is certainly both formulaic and feel-good… but there’s nothing wrong with that.
Costner plays a former high school football coach who is forced to move to a poor farming town in rural California after an unfortunate incident with a student. The town is largely inhabited by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, but despite his family’s differences, he wins over the locals and builds a highly competitive cross-country team.
McFarland USA runs its course pretty much as you’d expect, with some adversity at first followed by the coach seeing untapped talent in a scrappy group of athletes. There is some mild Disney conflict (oh no, the coach is so obsessed with his sport that he forgot his daughter’s birthday!), the inevitable athlete who has to quit because his parents commanded it, and other generic, Disney-safe material.
But despite all this, McFarland USA is an enjoyable, entertaining movie that never pushes any boundaries but tells a fun, based-on-a-true-story story. Costner is perfect for the role—even though he could do this in his sleep—and the actors who play the students make for a good mix of characters.
The movie’s attempts to cater to Hispanic audiences comes off a little hollow at times, but hardly offensive. Like most Disney films, it could also have benefited from tighter editing—at over two hours, it’s about 15 minutes too long. A random subplot involving a fight could have easily been cut, and some of the tedious family drama could have been excised without anyone thinking twice about it.
Still, McFarland is a fun, harmless little drama-comedy that occasionally stumbles but never collapses. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.