NEW YORK (CNS) — Kevin Costner turns in a restrained yet compelling performance as the central figure in the fact-based sports drama “McFarland, USA” (Disney).
As for the story unfolding around him, faith- and family-friendly values — together with the absence of any genuinely problematic elements for parents — make director Niki Caro’s uplifting tale one that can be enthusiastically recommended for moviegoers of almost all ages.
Costner plays Jim White, a high school science teacher and coach in 1980s California whose sharp temper places him on a downward career spiral. Jim, wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and daughters Julie (Morgan Saylor) and Jamie (Elsie Fisher) seem to have hit rock bottom when the best job he can find forces them to relocate to the impoverished, predominantly Latino fieldworkers’ community of the title.
As the Whites — whose name now takes on an ironic significance — struggle to adjust to McFarland’s Hispanic culture, Jim recognizes a widespread gift among his new students for long-distance running. Toughened by backbreaking agricultural work and constrained to cover extensive distances on foot, lads like Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) glide swiftly across the landscape without giving their speed a second thought.
Jim decides to draw on this pool of latent talent by organizing a cross-country team. Since this genre of racing is considered an elite sport for country club-types, Jim and his charges will have to compete against the privileged athletes who attend the Golden State’s private academies. But Jim is convinced that, with the requisite effort, his hearty proteges can prevail.
Caro’s saga of youthful underdogs pitted against the odds honors Jim and Cheryl’s strong marriage, along with the bonds uniting the other close-knit clans it portrays. The script also highlights the value of education and self-improvement.
Though religion mostly hovers in the background, a spontaneous, intense and identifiably Catholic prayer of thanksgiving marks one of the movie’s emotional high-water marks.
The film contains an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a single mild oath, a couple of crass terms and occasional ethnic slurs. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103