McFarland, USA

We all love David vs Goliath stories, particularly in sports. Director Niki Caro ("North Country"), working from a heartwarming story by Chris- topher Cleveland ("Glory Road"), brings us a terrific PG-rated tale based on true events. In fact, during the final credits, we meet many of the actual people and are pleased to read what happened with them after the "happily ever after."

A tiny little poverty-stricken California town combines two unlikely things, a beleaguered coach and an award-winning cross-country track team. He happens to spot some of his students "commuting" (on foot!) between their work as pickers in the fields and their school classes. It takes only one day in the field for him to understand how tough these kids are and how much stamina they must have, just to survive. Both toughness and stamina are essential for cross-country track!

We watch:
  • Kevin Costner ("Black or White") Coach White steps into his new job with low expectations and a hot temper. He makes "gringo" mistakes about Low Riders and the importance of his daughter's fifteenth birthday (quinceañera), but after a humbling day in the field as a picker, he is willing to learn! Costner has rarely been better.
  • Maria Bello ("Prisoners") is his wife Cheryl, who sticks with him as he loses job after job. She is befriended by a local beautician and starts to feel at home.
  • Morgan Saylor ("Homeland") Julie turns fifteen in this strange little town, but her dad is busy and forgets.
  • Valente Rodriguez (Lots of TV) Principal Camillo shows us what a high-school principal SHOULD be! He spots phonies and finds opportunities where others might not look.
  • Carlos Pratts ("Coyote") Thomas is tough and fast. His schedule doesn't allow him the luxury to loaf. Señor Blanco will have to accept him as is, or not at all!
  • Ramiro Rodriguez (First role) Burly Danny Diaz is the anchor of the McFarland team, and NOT because he is muchacho gordo. His gutsy determination inspires them all.
Yes, this is predictable, but you will enjoy every step of your way to a happy ending. As you might hope, the only bad guys are the opposing teams (they play golf!) and the only gunshots are the starter guns at the track meets. You will see no sexual heat, vehicular mayhem or blowie uppie stuff, but you WILL enjoy McFarland's version of a ticker-tape parade, the town's many kindnesses for the new family, and the excite- ment of boys who finally see the ocean!

After I made a mental list of scenes I particularly liked (there is a LOT of humor, and I like humor), I quickly realized there wouldn't be enough space. Go see for yourself, and you might want to take along a tissue or two.
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Here is a trailer:
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