SYNOPSIS: In the tradition of Disney Sports movies comes McFarland, USA based on the inspiring true story of underdogs triumphing over tremendous obstacles. This heartwarming drama follows novice runners who strive to build a cross-country team under Coach Jim White in their predominantly Latino high school Everyone has a lot to learn about each other but when Coach realizes the boys’ exceptional running ability, things change. Beyond their talent, it’s the power of family, commitment to each other and work ethic that transforms them into champions — helping them achieve their own American dream. 


Because the distributor believes sport theme movies has no market locally, we don’t really get to watch a lot of Disney’s backed sports drama on the big screen. Following Million Dollar Arm (which again missed a theatrical run here), Uncle Walt is back yet again with another inspirational tale - this time it’s about cross-country.

Based on a true story with some minor facts changed, an ex-football coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) have to start a new teaching post in McFarland, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in California after he lost his job after an altercation with a student. Facing a bleak future, White stumbled upon the idea of starting a cross-country team in the school after noticing some of his boys in his class are superb runners. Being a fish out of water, will White succeed in convincing the poor boys to join the team and win the State championship?

The answer can’t be a NO right? Especially this is in the tradition of a Disney sports movie. Have you ever watched movies liked The Mighty Ducks, The Rookie, Glory Road, Miracle and Remember the Titans? Then McFarland USA never deviate much from the formula. Rousing, stirring, motivational and heartwarming, McFarland USA has everything covered under the hands of Niki Caro (Anyone can still recall she helmed the acclaimed Whale Rider?) and the credited three writers.

Besides the usual clichés liked the compulsory sports movie speeches, the movie also takes an interesting look at the lives and colorful culture of Mexican-Americans. The various characters felt real and intimate as the flick devotes a decent amount of screentime at those poor Latino boys that grew up juggling to work as pickers at the farms to supplement the family income, at the same time working hard to realize their own dreams.    

Most of the seven young actors are fresh faces with perhaps the exception of Carlos Pratts (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) but their performances remain incredibly strong. Kevin Costner no stranger to playing a sports star (watch Bull Durham and For Love of the Game if you haven’t) is as comfortable portraying a player and a coach. Costner seems to get better as he grows older and this is certainly one of his stronger showings in years.

This sports drama about a cross-country team emerging out of an unknown minority town might not surprise you in the end. Nevertheless, there’s nothing liked an uplifting tale about underdogs to cheer up a lackluster day at work.     


Inspiring McFarland is a brief 2 minutes segment that has the real Jim White and director speak about the movie in addition to a Music Video by Colombian musician, Juanes. 


With lots of color correction and saturated hues to depict the 80’s setting, the visual and detailing remains impressive. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is overall serviceable as the genre doesn’t require much needed surround and ambient effects. 



Review by Linus Tee



Genre: Drama
Starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar
Director: Niki Caro
Rating: PG13 
Year Made: 2015


- Inspiring McFarland
- "Juntos" Music Video


Languages: English/Brazilian Portuguese/Latin Spanish/Thai
Subtitles: English/Mandarin/Bahasa Malay/Bahasa Indonesia/Korean/
Brazilian Portuguese/Latin Spanish/Thai
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Running Time: 2 hrs 9 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: HVN Entertainment Singapore