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McFARLAND, USA

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 5, 2015

It’s a sad thing that in the 21st century, movies that play in theaters are seldom family-friendly unless they’re animated. And even then, the PG rating may be code for too many scatological gags or inappropriate innuendo.

But every once in a while, one comes along, as with “Spare Parts,” which was reviewed here recently, and hot on its heels, “McFarland, USA” (PG), another true story of Hispanic high school kids excelling in a competition, which has been released by Disney on Blu-ray and DVD this week.

With “McFarland, USA,” it’s cross-country running, and the film is uplifting, engaging, funny, warm and completely winning.

It won over critics, but sadly didn’t really dent the box office, earning only $44 million over the course of its run. On the other hand, it only cost a reported $17 million to make, so it went into the black well before tapping DVD, Blu-ray and other ancillary markets.

    

   Kevin Costner, center, with his team in 'McFarland, USA'

I’m with the national critical consensus on this one. It’s a terrific film that the family can enjoy together.

Kevin Costner stars as former football coach Jim White, who loses his job and is forced to scale back and accept a position as an assistant coach at a high school in a largely Hispanic area of central California.

White and his family (Maria Bello plays his wife) have some difficulty adjusting at first, and he is obviously not happy with his role at the school, where he also teaches life science.

  

        Maria Bello, Kevin Costner, 'McFarland, USA'

But when he sees some of the boys run, White is inspired to form a cross-country track team. Unfortunately, the best candidates are from impoverished families and the boys have to work in the fields. They don’t feel they have time for track. White will have to adjust his preconceptions to win them over.

Obviously, things work out. No matter how faithful movies like this are to the truth, they are still formulaic within the parameters of the underdog sports genre.

But that doesn’t really matter. The writing and direction are crisp, Costner, Bello and the rest of the cast are first-rate and the film achieves its goals, which are to entertain and uplift.

Would that more movies today could do the same.