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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 (Kevin Costner) 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 transform them into champions -- helping them achieve their own American dream.
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As I post this review of the BD version of this early 2015 Disney feature film, there are already 16 reviews posted here on Amazon. This is because Amazon has a policy of grouping ALL reviews of all formats of a film (theatrical release, streaming, DVD and BD) together and putting them under each format. I always recommend that potential customers sort the reviews by “newest first” – there is an option – and then to note which format the reviewer is discussing.) This is a review of the Bluray which will be released on June 2, 2015. (I was provided an advance screener in exchange for an objective review.)
First a brief subjective review of the film itself. Let’s face it. When a film is heralded as “Based on a true story” (BOATS) and it concerns a sports team, you pretty much know how it will end. The enjoyment comes from how the story is laid out and how good the acting is. This is the story of seven Chicano high-school boys growing up in the Central Valley area of California who are encouraged by the new assistant football coach to form a cross country track team and win the State championship. The coach – Jim White – is played by Kevin Costner (who has made more than a handful of sports films in his career. No, he didn’t write, produce or direct this film. The Director is Niki Caro, who Directed “Whale Rider”.
I went into this film hoping it was different than all the other “inspirational underdog” films. No, it wasn’t much different – though, at 128 minutes, it probably could have used some editing – but the seven young Hispanic actors (most probably in their first feature role) gave the film heart – and, yes, there were times a lump of emotion filled my throat. So, yes I liked it.
The BD comes with four sets of bonus features. First is “McFarland Reflections”, an 8 minute featurette with Costner and the real-life Jim White meeting with six of the actual seven members of the team. That was fairly interesting. Next comes a three-minute music video comprised of scenes from the film to one of the neat Chicano songs on the soundtrack. The third bonus – “Inspiring McFarland” is a very brief, two-minute, featurette with a sentence or two from Costner, White, Director Caro and a few of the team members. And actors. The last “bonus” is a compilation of six “deleted or extended” scenes and runs eight minutes. I found that they did not add anything to the story.
What might have raised my rating of the BD another star would have been a “making of” featurette showing how the race scenes were filmed. Watching the film I wanted to know two things: How did the actor do so much running? And how did the low income town of McFarland react to the film crew (which I hope brought money to this still-low income community made up mostly of farm workers. But, also, none of this is revealed.
So, yes, I can recommend the film if you like inspirational sports films and – though it is rated PG (for a scene of attempted violence - which really never gets resolved) – something to share with a family. But this is also like many BOATS films.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
Disney must have not advertised this movie much as I don’t ever recall seeing anything about this, trailer or otherwise but since this had Costner in it, I decided to rent and watch. Having recently watched the movie “Spare Parts” which has a similar type of storyline, this movie follows a familiar underdog type of story. By no means does this make this movie boring or bad as the best part of this movie, like Spare Parts, is that this is based on a true story of the real coach and his students. Having spent some time in the Imperial Valley of California when I was only a couple years out of college, I experienced a bit of the same culture shock that Costner portrayed in the movie, but the one thing that I found being there and the story tells very well is the unique, family oriented and welcoming culture that the Mexican-American migrant community has. I was an outsider from a small Kentucky town but felt more welcome than anyplace I have lived before or since. It was something that definitely made an impression on me and this movie displayed those things very well, that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. So for me, I understood the story and the reasons why Coach decided the things he did as home can be anyplace as long as you are willing to give the unlikeliest of places a chance. I like when these true stories show the real people at the end and how their real lives turned out, both the good and the bad.
This movie is an inspirational tale and worth watching.
That said I must add that I have really been disappointed at the recent Kevin Costner film offerings. While its nice for him to support a film like this (and his performance is heads above the rest of the cast), I miss the old "hero-centric" films he use to make. Now in his fifties he has the ability to produce epic tales about people over the age of 50. Not feeble, lame, ineffectual people - but smart, canny, mature adults who save the world with logic and decisiveness based on their lifelong experience. A thinking man's hero... like Cary Grant and Gregory Peck.
Trust me Kevin, there is a market for that. And you would really add to your legacy.