Written by Gayle Turner
“Welcome to McFarland. This is a farming town-these kids working here are invisible. They come from the fields and they go back to the fields. Mr. White, if we’re going to reach them now is the time… Champions can come from anywhere.”
Think back to the great sports movies that you’ve seen-what made them great? They brought to life people that came together in unexpected ways and they were able to accomplish things that they never could have imagined. Even though you knew going in what the outcome would be-it didn’t matter-you still sat on the edge of your seat, holding your breath, waiting and wondering would Rudy finally make the team, would Team USA be able to stand up to the powerhouse Russian hockey team, or could the little high school basketball team from Indiana possibly have a chance to go all the way. Every once in a rare while, a film has you coming out of the theater filled with hope and promise. It leaves you feeling hopeful and inspired and for a brief period of time, life is good. Welcome to McFarland, USA.
Let’s face it-if you say “sports movie” you have definitely peeked my interest and on top of that, if you happen to throw Kevin Costner into the mix, you have my full and undivided attention. But this isn’t just another one of “those” sports movies. This is a film told in a remarkable way. It looks like a sports film, but it’s really a movie about people and how relationships can transform us. Costner’s performance is straight from the heart-you can see it in his eyes that something special is going on here. Combine that with a supporting cast that is first rate and realize that this is not just a movie, but a story that people actually lived, and you have all the makings of a film that will stay with you long after the lights come back up and the popcorn is gone. Director Niki Caro does such an amazing job revealing the character of the people and the town that you feel as though you had grown up in McFarland and known these people all of your life.
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“Champions can come from anywhere.” Inspired by the 1987 true story, “McFarland, USA” follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. Soon something beyond their physical gifts becomes apparent—the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.
Disney’s “McFarland, USA” stars Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor, Martha Higareda, Michael Aguero, Sergio Avelar, Hector Duran, Rafael Martinez, Johnny Ortiz, Carlos Pratts, Ramiro Rodriguez, Danny Mora, Valente Rodriguez, Vanessa Martinez and Chris Ellis and is directed by Niki Caro with screenplay by Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson, and story by Cleveland & Gilois. Gordon Gray and Mark Ciardi are producing, with Mario Iscovich and Mary Martin serving as executive producers.
McFarland, USA could so easily have been yet another feel-good, “formula” sports underdog movie. But soon, thanks to the genuine heart in its story and a beautiful heart felt performance by Kevin Costner, it will likely win you over. So go ahead, surrender. Cry a little. This is one feel-good movie that won’t make you feel bad about feeling good.
“Champions come from anywhere”
McFarland, USA, is open theaters everywhere.
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Gayle is a lifelong educator by day and avid freelance writer by night Mom to 5, Grammy to 4 she is blessed to share her life with amazing family and friends who encourage her to chase her dreams no matter where they may lead. When not in the classroom, she can be found following her son as he dances his way through life, or working with young performers in free nationally recognized after school children’s theater program that she founded 13 years ago.