Skip to main content

McFarland, USA: Movie Review

Share This article

McFarland, USA is an inspiring sports drama starring Kevin Costner about an unlikely group of high-school runners competing in 1987 California.

Jim White is a high school football coach with a temper, which keeps getting him fired. Job opportunities become so few that Jim is forced to accept an assistant coaching position at a small town school in McFarland, California.

Jim drives his wife and two daughters into the poor farming town of McFarland and immediately regrets his decision. McFarland, which is predominantly Hispanic, is not the safe suburban neighborhood Jim wants for his family, but his wife convinces him to try making the new job work.

Almost immediately, Jim causes trouble with the head coach of the football team, and the principal asks him to step down and just teach Physical Education classes. As he watches some of the students run track, Jim notices a physical strength and speed in some of the students that he hasn't seen elsewhere. Many of the young boys work as "pickers." They wake up at the crack of dawn and work in the fields picking fruit and vegetables until it's time for school, only to go back to the fields after school. Additionally, many of them have to run to and from school because they don't have cars. This gives Jim the idea to put together a cross-country running team.

Jim enlists seven unlikely Hispanic boys, one of whom is kind of overweight, onto his team and begins training them. After some missteps, Jim pushes the boys to achieve the unthinkable and actually beat cross country running teams at schools much bigger and more heavily funded than McFarland's. Along the way, Jim and his family begin to fall in love with the tiny town, but some obstacles stand in the way of them staying long term.

Can Jim actually take this team to the state championship? If he does, will another school offer him a better job? Is McFarland too rough a town for his family? These questions make Jim re-evaluate what's important, not only for his family, but also for the young men he's inspired.

McFarland, USA is one of the best sports dramas in recent years. Veteran actor Kevin Costner isn't groundbreaking with his performance as Jim White, but he's really comfortable in the role. The real standouts in McFarland, USA are the young actors who show the struggle many communities have to give their youth opportunities to succeed. With great cinematography and well-plotted conflict, the movie is highly entertaining. It does run a little on the long side and the beginning could have been trimmed, but otherwise, it's not just a feel good story, it's a good story period!

The true story of what took place in this small town reveals the possibilities that can be achieved through hard work and perseverance. McFarland, USA has strong moral, redemptive messages about sacrificing for family and friends and working hard to build a better life, as well as overt elements of Christian faith. A light caution is advised due to brief foul language and some implied violence.

All in all, however, McFarland, USA is the kind of inspiring movie that media-wise families can strongly support.

Share This article

About The Author

MOVIEGUIDE® was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ted Baehr, past president of the Episcopal Radio & Television Foundation and former director of the Television Center at the City University of New York. MOVIEGUIDE® is affiliated with the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry (CFTVC). Both MOVIEGUIDE® and CFTVC are dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment industry, according to biblical principles, by influencing industry executives and artists and by informing and educating the public about the influence of the entertainment media and about how to train their families to become