McFarland, USA, based on the true story of a 1987 cross-country team from McFarland High School in California and starring Kevin Costner, is inspirational and effortlessly does justice to the real story being told.

McFarland, USA is a story about a struggling football coach and teacher named Jim White (Costner), who was forced to move to McFarland after getting into a verbal altercation with one of his players. After settling his family into their new home Jim discovers hidden talent among many of the Mexican students at McFarland High. McFarland, California, being one of the poorest cities in the country, shaped the young men into hard workers, relying on their ability to get around on foot. Jim gradually manages to form a cross-country team full of young Latino men, bringing them closer together as team and family. In the end Jim transforms the team into championship runners.

As Jim White, Costner gives a great performance and exudes confidence and strength in order to sell White as a leader fighting for a group of people he believes in. Maria Bello, cast as Jim’s wife Cheryl, unfortunately isn’t given much to do. Her role is delegated to the supportive wife and mother, trying to adapt to their change in lifestyle. Morgan Saylor and Elsie Fisher as Julie and Jamie, the young daughters of Jim and Cheryl, provided powerful emotional and dramatic moments in which Julie falls for one of the troubled runners, getting hurt in the process, while Jamie refuses to accept living in a town that could kill them, due to its violent gangs and streets.

The young Mexican runners Danny Diaz (Ramiro Rodriguez), Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts), David Diaz (Rafael Martinez), Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran), Victor Puentes (Sergio Avelar) and Jose Cardenas (Johnny Ortiz) are brilliantly portrayed, as the characters are seen battling with their identities and the notion that they’re only good enough for fieldwork. The runners stay true to their Latino heritage by following traditions and speaking Spanish, but as they grow as a family the boys learn to trust in a world outside of the hazard city of McFarland, and beat the odds against them.

The film, while mostly emotionally driven, had some comedic moments, coming from actor Valente Rodriguez who plays Principal Camillo. I enjoyed his funny quips and sarcastic sense of humor in his talks with Jim, which really balanced the film in terms of taking a break from the heavy stuff.

McFarland, USA is pretty much your cliché sports film tackling race, abuse and poverty. The tale about the one coach that comes in and helps change the lives of the minority students — overcoming adversity. You know the films like Glory Road (2006), Coach Carter (2005), and Remember The Titans (2000). If you enjoy these sappy, inspirational sports blockbusters then this movie is definitely for you.

The DVD bonus features are worth checking out. I thought the behind the story interviews with the real Jim White and director Nicki Caro delved deeply into why the film was made and how much this story affected people during the 1980s. Overall McFarland, USA is another well done inspirational film that should be given a chance, keep your tissues out while you watch.

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