Reviewed by: Hannah NeCamp
importance of good character
strong work ethic
overcoming the odds against your success
building an enduring legacy
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 Costner … Coach
Maria Bello … Cheryl
Morgan Saylor … Julie
Elsie Fisher … Jamie
Vincent Martella … Brandon
Martha Higareda … Lupe
Daniel Moncada … Eddie
Mariann Gavelo … Low Rider Cover girl
Carlos Pratts … Thomas
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|Director:||Niki Caro—“Whale Rider,” “North Country”|
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.
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.