Saturday, February 21, 2015

McFarland USA will warm your heart and inspire your feet

Movie:  McFarland, USA

PG, 2 hours 9 minutes

Grade: A

In a Nutshell: While this underdog story isn’t unique, the newest Disney film has a lot of heart and shows how to do the proven formula for inspiring sports films right.  Like the sign says that the town’s kids hold up to cheer on the cross country team, “McFarland es mas macho.”  I especially love inspiring movies about true stories when, at the end, they show the real people the film was based on and where they are today.

Hollywood cranks out movies about football and baseball, but rarely do you see high school cross country featured. My two oldest sons ran cross country when they were in high school in San Diego.  I remember cheering them on and eagerly waiting for the judges to score the races and announce the winners.  It’s an admirable sport whose athletes impress me with their tenacity and calm endurance.  You’ll be even more in awe when you see what this coach and team were able to accomplish in real life.

Maybe I was in a sentimental mood, but I got teary-eyed several times in this movie.  If you don't feel anything during this movie, you need to run until you cry.

Uplifting Theme:
·       You’ll be introduced to the small town of McFarland, USA , “the fruit bowl of California” and you’ll look at the plentiful produce in your grocery store differently.  Hopefully, you’ll look at Mexican Americans, especially “pickers”, in a different way too.

·        Like all good sports movies, this one includes lessons on sportsmanship, dedication, humility, hard work, persistence, and vision.

Things I liked:
·         Kevin Costner seemed to disappear from the big screen for awhile, but now he’s starring in two movies currently playing in theaters: McFarland USA and Black or White.  He does a great job in both.
·         I always appreciate the details in movies.  This movie painted a broad brushstroke of Mexican American cliches, while also providing details like yard chickens, tortas,  quinceanera parades, and dusty car windows to give you more of a flavor of the culture and town.
·         The Star Spangled Banner montage reminded me that America is the home of the brave and how truly brave those who leave their own countries to work this land are.  
      The boys on the team are charismatic, which makes for a good story, but the fact that they are real people is awesome.
Things I didn’t like:
·         While I love Maria Bello’s biceps, she looks pretty beat up in this film.  Maybe that was intentional?
       The script doesn't address illegal migrant workers. 

Funny lines:
·         “Nobody can hold a grudge like a teenage girl.” – Cheryl White (Maria Bello)
·         “Nice shorts dude.” – cocky runner on a different team, making fun of the McFarland team outfit
“You play golf?” – Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts)
“Yeah.” – cocky runner
“This ain’t golf.” – Thomas smirks as he runs ahead of the other player
·         “You go slow, right?” – Jim White (Kevin Costner) to Javi (Rigo Sanchez) who is driving his daughter in a Quinciniera parade
“”It’s the only way to we go…low and slow” - Javi
·         “We certainly don’t want a fire in this place.  It could cost tens of dollars in damage.” – McFarland High School janitor
·         “Where’s Danny?  He’s slower than 911 to a Mexican’s house.” – Jose Cardenas (Johnny Ortiz)
·         “You think I’m picking on you, Diaz?  Go faster and I’ll pick on someone else.” – Coach White
·         “Congrats, White. They’re treating you like a picker.” - Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran)

Inspiring lines:
·         “We don’t practice to lose.” – David Diaz (Rafael Martinez)
·         “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight.  It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Johnny 
“It depends on the dog.” – Coach White
“Now we know what we didn’t  know.  Let’s hit it again.” - Coach White

Tips for Parents:  This movie can provide a great opportunity to talk to your kids about sports, determination, cultural differences, prejudices, expectations, bullying, and working hard.

Other inspiring Disney sports movies I think you'll enjoy!


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