‘Champions can come from anywhere’… In the case of the February 2015 release of a feel-good, family sports drama from Walt Disney Pictures and Mayhem Pictures, champions come from ‘McFarland, USA’. Audiences will join a lovable host of characters in the story of an unlikely cross-country team who overcomes arduous circumstances to succeed beyond their dreams. Based on true events, ‘McFarland, USA’ is a PG-rated family drama sprinkled with generous amounts of humor and action, while maintaining an overall sincere, wholehearted mood. Additionally, a soundtrack for the movie debuts an upbeat and catchy original song by Latin music superstar Juanes, entitled “Juntos (Together)”. Running just over two hours in length, the movie is a little longer than many similar stories – but the excellent character development and progressive plotline makes time race by.
If you are looking for an entertaining film that your entire family can watch together, look no further than ‘McFarland, USA’. With laugh-out-loud humor and a stand-up-and-dance Spanish soundtrack, it is sure to be received enthusiastically by people of many ages. The storyline, however, is primarily geared towards older children and adults, and is likely to go over the heads of a younger audience. A talented actor superbly portrays each character, and the distinct stories of growth and courage make this movie easy to love and watch again and again. Although numerous sports-based films have been released in the past few years, many of them based on true stories, McFarland takes its place as one of the best of the genre. Not only does it provide excitement and emotion through a compelling storyline and identifiable characters, but also it is family-oriented and for the most part exemplary in moral ‘cleanliness’. Additionally, it is sure to prove inspiring not only to athletes, but also to anyone who struggles with overcoming personal struggles and circumstances. As a heartwarming story that refrains from too much sentimentality, ‘McFarland, USA’ is best summed up in its tagline: ‘Champions can come from anywhere.’
Note: I viewed this movie as an Exclusive VIP Screening event, courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Walt Disney Studios Canada. ‘McFarland, USA’ releases in theatres across North America on February 20, 2015.
To learn more about the storyline of McFarland, USA, please continue reading…
Coach Jim White is a phys-ed teacher who cares about the sports he teaches. The only problem with that is he can’t hold down a job for very long at one time… Losing his temper at kids who don’t care enough to give even 50% effort has cost him more than one job, and in 1987 it ends him, his wife, and their two young daughters in McFarland, California – ‘one of the poorest communities in America’. With the searing heat of a Mexico-like climate beating down on it, McFarland is home to multi-generational families of ‘pickers’ who work in the fields from sunup to sundown, harvesting the produce of California. It is said that the large jail sitting squarely in the middle of town is not a coincidence, but rather a convenience. As Coach White struggles to gain his footing at the school, the boys in phys-ed class openly resent a newcomer almost as much as the coach resents his posting – until his eyes begin to open to the almost super-human capability his students possess… Many of them can easily run long distances in extreme heat – and with extreme speed.
From the moment they arrive in McFarland, the White family is pretty sure the town will fall short of all their desires for a home, from safety and security to friends and neighbors who even speak their language. Hoping the location will only be a temporary stopping point, Coach White decides to make the best of difficult circumstances and requests permission to assemble a cross-country racing team of seven local boys, including one who can run at unheard-of speeds for an untrained youth. Although the group is discordant and unenthusiastic at first, their confidence – and that of their coach – grows when valuable teamwork ethics begin to build, and the small group evolves into a loyal family. As weeks pass and the McFarland Cougars begin to make a surprising impression in cross-country competitions, issues at home and work arise and force the group to rethink their future as a team. Are they willing to take risks in order to gain a chance for a brighter future, or does growing up in McFarland automatically eliminate them from any chances of success?
Just as the Cougars find their hopes building towards qualifying for state finals, a shattering accident involving not only the seven-man team but also Jim White’s 15-year old daughter explodes from the darker side of McFarland. The question becomes whether Coach White will remain with the team he brought into existence, consisting of boys who respect and trust him, in the imperfect town that has become home to his family… Or will a prestigious career offer now within reach, and in a safer community, prove too much to refuse? Although Coach White did not set out with the intention to give boys hope for a life more than that of a ‘picker’, he comes to realize that without help the children of McFarland are essentially invisible. They have been given a role that suppresses dreams for the future and encourages lawlessness – and hopelessness – by believing they can never achieve anything more. Cross-country success changes this view. As the team grows in endurance and skill, they also grow in a priceless understanding of the true value of teamwork. At the same time, their Coach witnesses firsthand the importance of family, and realizes that his wife and daughters may benefit from a few changes to his own life. Overarching the entire story of ‘McFarland, USA’ is the realization that it is not your history, circumstances, or family heritage that determines where you can go and what you can do… Your future is up to you.