Take a Drink: any time someone mentions the town’s name
Take a Drink: when a competing school is racist or mean because… “plot”
Drink a Shot: for each fish out of water moment where Costner or family prove how White the White Family really is.
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Jim White (Kevin Costner) is a down on his luck high school teacher who by the virtue of his gruff attitude has found himself fired and forced to take a position at the low-paying, poor California town of McFarland. The town’s principle population is made up of farm workers, many of whom are students at the high school. Desperate for the extra money that comes from coaching a team, and seeing that the state has just started a Cross-Country running program, Mr. White decides to lobby the administration for permission to start a team. Assembled from a handful of students who run daily between school and the fields, the team is rough around the edges, but quickly becomes one of the state’s top competitors in the sport. Meanwhile Mr. White and family begin to nestle into their adopted community.
Every 6 months or so, like clockwork; Disney presents audiences with a mid-budgeted, boilerplate drama. These films are never exceptional, nor are they generally terrible. They are designed to be inoffensive and watchable. McFarland U.S.A. is exactly that kind of movie, except that it rises slightly above expectations, thanks to solid performances, scenic cinematography, and a socially conscious story that takes aim at the perils of gentrification.
Kevin Costner gives a strong performance, and no doubt you’ll read about it in just about every review. But the real pleasure of McFarland U.S.A. comes from watching the otherwise mostly Hispanic cast, many of whom are newcomers, hold their own with the veteran actor and more. These performers provide a real backbone to a sports story that could easily have blended in with every other.
Why is it that in every sports movie, the down and out team is teased and outright insulted by other teams? Does this happen in all sports? (If it does, it means that sports are nothing but a breeding ground for assholes.) More likely, though, this is just a shorthand to create added dramatic tension where none was needed. As clichés go, this is nothing new, but always frustrating.
Speaking of forced dramatics, what is it with the sudden gangland encounter in the third act? If there were any kind of build up to it, it might have made sense. But instead it feels like it was thrown in for no other reason than to add 10 minutes to the film’s running time.
Kind of surprising how an unremarkable, by-the-numbers drama still manages to hit on all of the right points to remain entertaining. Weak praise? Perhaps.