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Movie Review

McFarland, USA also known as “McFarland USA”

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, some violence and language.

Reviewed by: Hannah NeCamp
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults Family
Genre:
Sports Drama
Length:
2 hr. 8 min.
Year of Release:
2015
USA Release:
February 20, 2015 (wide—2,600+ theaters)
DVD: June 2, 2015
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

importance of good character

goodness and righteousness

strong work ethic

determination

overcoming the odds against your success

building an enduring legacy

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

commitment to one another

power of family relationships

adults who make a positive impact on young people

difficulties of being a migrant worker

Featuring: Kevin CostnerCoach
Maria BelloCheryl
Morgan Saylor … Julie
Elsie Fisher … Jamie
Vincent Martella … Brandon
Martha Higareda … Lupe
Daniel Moncada … Eddie
Mariann Gavelo … Low Rider Cover girl
Carlos Pratts … Thomas
more »
Director: Niki Caro—“Whale Rider,” “North Country
Producer: Mayhem Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Champions can come from anywhere”

Family is important. Community is important. Character matters. The American dream may be about going bigger, getting better, and doing more, but, ultimately, people, relationships, and character—not a dream—build and strengthen America. “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great,” said de Tocqueville. “McFarland, USA” is a heartwarming film about things that are good, a true story that will help us remember the connection between goodness and greatness.

Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, is a football coach who, after losing his temper with a young man on his team, is exiled to McFarland (California) High School. Someone notes that McFarland, a small city almost entirely populated by Hispanic farm workers, is one of the poorest towns in America. The White family (how ironic the name!) has some reservations about living in a place that they don’t know, don’t understand, and honestly fear. And so the story begins.

Jim comes to coach a football team, but quickly sees that a cross country track team would be a better fit for these kids who run because they don’t have cars. With absolutely no track experience, White forms a team of seven young men to begin competing in a sport that typically belonged to the country-club crowd. They must work very hard—at picking crops as well as at running—to overcome impossible odds. And along the way, they learn about life… and so does Jim White.

Sweet relationships form between the players and their coach as they persevere in a sport where they’re continually challenged. Character is formed through the shared hardships and struggles that they face. Together they grow to become something more. Yes, they become champions, but they also become men, men with strength of character and depth of vision that translate into a better McFarland. And, as the title of the movie implies, McFarland is America.

Kevin Costner does a terrific job portraying Mr. White, the man who doesn’t want to be in McFarland, who eventually becomes Coach White, a man who takes on learning cross country track to help change the lives of seven young men and, eventually, strengthens a community. He learns that people are important, very important… that families are important… that communities are important. Most of the young men come from close-knit families; they’ve been taught values like respecting your elders, honoring women, working hard, becoming a team, and faith. Though this movie is not a “Christian” film, the impact that Christianity has had on Hispanic culture—that is so richly portrayed in this movie—is plainly obvious. One of the most touching scenes occurs after the McFarland team wins a race, and all the young men kneel, bowing their heads in sweet humility to give thanks to the Lord for their victory.

Character is the stuff of champions and of life, and character development is on display in this movie. When Danny, the overweight “seventh wheel” on a seven-man team, huffs and puffs and drags himself to the finish line far behind the pack, Coach White encourages him: “Danny, you didn’t give up!” And not giving up takes Danny, and his team, to a place they would have never dreamed.

“McFarland…” isn’t a great movie, but it is a good movie about true greatness. It may not rise to the place of the rich, Christ-centered culture that we would desire for our homes and churches, but the echoes of Christianity resound throughout this film. And because of it, the picture in this movie stands strikingly above what is becoming all too typical in America 2015. Take your family to see it, and let it be a conversation starter on some key issues like family, teamwork, community, and service.

Objectionable content

A man whistles at a young girl. There is talk about persons being in and out of prison. A young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock. There is some immodesty—tight clothing on girls, and guys taking off their shirts. Mr. and Mrs. White are shown in bed together, but they are only talking. There is a near suicide attempt. There is implied violence, and a man who has been stabbed is shown being loaded into an ambulance. The Lord’s name is taken in vain three times.

Violence: Minor to moderate / Profanity: Mild—about 1 time each: “Oh G*d,” “My G*d,” “hell,” “damn,” “bullsh*t,” “a**,” “cr*ppy” / Sex/Nudity: Minor to mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I would recommend this movie to all ages. Although there are instances of what could be considered objectionable, I need more censorship around me when I’m walking down any street in town. This movie is so well done that I thought I was back home in South San Jose in my early to late teens. The young actors portraying the cross country team members did such an amazing job. I was almost sad to see it end, so I guess I’ll have to go see it again.

***SPOILER*** I found myself clapping and cheering Benny through the last championship race. Such an encouraging way to show that no matter where you start, you win when you do the best you can. I was so pleased when the team dropped to their knees to give thanks to God for their win. ***END SPOILER***

Truly a family and faith movie, although not advertised as Christian.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Carol, age 60 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I took our two sons (11 and 13) to see this wonderful and inspiring movie. Themes like perseverance, teamwork and commitment are explored among many others—even a small theme on how a young lady should be treated.

I really enjoyed getting to know the Mexican culture and seeing a new, deep and respectful perspective on their lives. I was glad my boys could see what REAL hard work looks like. I don’t think they’re going to complain about their chores as much any more. Take your whole family to see this great film! Maybe everyone in the theater will clap at the end, like they did in ours. Hope they continue to make movies like this.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Tm, age 44 (USA)
Positive—This movie was OK. It was worth my senior citizen price. It looked like a low budget movie, but a good one. Did it really need more money to produce it? Not really. It was nice, made to look like a TV movie. No need for any special effects.

Story line was true. Message was not really depending on God, however had a positive you can do if you try attitude. The town’s people were Catholic. The white family did not have God in their lives. Good acting. A good culture mix of a white family that has to move into a Mexican/American town for a job, because the father got fired from his previous mostly white school district. They go through the pain, getting used to living among all these culturally different people. As time passes, the love of these people to the white family was a joy to see.

These kids who won the State championship inspired many people. Good flick to see with the family.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Robert Garcia, age 67 (USA)
Positive—I hope this is indicative of what we can hope for in movies in the future… something that impacts our culture positively and offers valuable support and entertainment to our children and families. Movies that honor the values our communities and country have lived by for generations are critical in today’s chaotic world. Please, make more movies that are wholesome, family and value oriented.

Please remember the enormous impact your industry has on our American culture and family values of this country and the world at large, since much of it watches American movies. I have recommended this movie to many and will continue to do so.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Billie, age over 50 (USA)

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