While Disney is primarily known for their library of animated films, they have a long history of inspirational sports films that more often than not really deliver the goods. Their latest, McFarland USA brings Kevin Costner to the front and center along Maria Bello and a great young cast, but does it have the expected inspirational story to back it up or will it not be able to make it to the finish line?
McFarland USA 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 transform them into champions, helping them achieve their own American dream. Lately Costner has been on a career resurgence and this is yet another great notch in his filmography. While the film centers on the young runners, it is Costner who leads the charge. His character is not only the fish out of water in the new town they live in and the school he works at now, but he is looking for redemption himself for his past and that connection with his family that just isn’t there. This is such a major part of the film, but it is structured in a way that it never over shadows the inspirational struggle these young men endured to rise to the level they achieved. There are a lot of moments that they could have gone the clichéd Hollywood route, but thankfully seemed to just let it play out more truthfully and in turn made for a much better film. While this story may not have the major punch as others like it, it still brings this powerful story to life. There are moments that make you all the more thankful for what you have and understand the struggles that other people endure in their daily lives that will make you be more thankful for what you have. The races here are well shot and not overly exciting as they are cross country events that are more about the long pace than speed, but somehow they have still made them exciting to watch.
If you are a fan of these sports inspirational films then this is one for you. Let’s hope this is just another stepping stone for Costner who is churning out a great variety of films and better than ever. In addition to the film, this release includes numerous special features including a music video, deleted & extended scenes, and featurettes that takes you behind the film and the true story that inspired it.