McFarland, USA Blu-ray Review

Actors: Kevin Costner, Rafael Martinez, Johnny Ortiz, Carlos Pratts
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD High Res Audio), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG 
  • Studio: Walt Disney Studios
  • Release Date: June 2, 2015
  • Run Time: 129 minutes


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            Sports movies released under the Disney logo are usually predictable from the trailer alone, following a formula that hasn’t changed much since the horribly contrived Remember the Titans. While McFarland, USA boasts a slightly better screenplay, nearly every aspect of the film aligns with this specific group of films. Based on a true story, dealing with issues of diversity, and centering on a group of underdogs, McFarland, USA feels like a paint-by-numbers Disney sports film, but that doesn’t always detract from its charms. Audiences going into a film like this know what they are getting, and this one delivers what is expected; no more and no less.

     


            Kevin Costner seems to be on a bit of an upswing recently, mostly due to understated performances in Draft Day, Black or White, as well as Coach Jim White in McFarland, USA. After losing several jobs as a football coach, White must take a job teaching at a high school in the low income California farming town the film takes its name from. With many of the Latino students forced to run as their only means for transportation and strengthened by days working with their parents in the fields of the farms, Coach White sees their potential in the endurance-based sport of cross-country racing. The biggest difficulty with this vision is convincing the students that the endeavor is worthwhile, especially coming from an outsider with a name fitting the color of his skin. It doesn’t help that White has no experience with the sport itself.

     

            With Costner being the biggest name in the cast, followed by Maria Bello in the blandly written role of his wife, much of the film’s focus remains on the journey of Coach White rather than the players, with the exception of an occasional melodramatic sequence or cliché representation of cultural differences. This makes for a movie that feels like it wants to be progressive while simultaneously feeling dated. Part of the problem is that the racing storyline is predictable, but even worse are the non-sport related sub-plots that attempt to add drama. Though they allow a reprieve from the one-note underdog narrative, the melodrama muddles the film more than helping. At 129-minutes, much of this could have been removed for a more concise tale. We know where the movie is going anyway, so it is often only irritating to be deterred so often by insignificant sub-plots such as the daughter’s foray into dating or the silly gang scuffle she is inexplicably pulled into as a result.

     

            The Blu-ray release highlights the true aspects of the narrative, including a featurette with the real Coach White and members of the 1987 cross-country team joined by Costner, as well as a featurette about the town of McFarland. Also included are a handful of deleted/extended scenes, as well as a music video performed by Juanes. The Blu-ray combo pack also comes with a Digital HD copy of the film.

     

    Entertainment Value: 7.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10

    Historical Significance:  6/10

    Special Features: 6.5/10





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