It's pretty tough to make a compelling movie about high school cross country, but somehow they have. This is a true story from the late 1980's of a remarkable, but fallible high school coach and his amazing group of seemingly misfit kids in one of America's poorest towns, McFarland, California. I know this has a bunch going against it, but this is a story worth telling, and I am glad they found it and told it.
Costner plays Coach White. A former high school football coach with a very checkered past. He has been fired from job after job with a long line of self destructive acts. Now down to his last chance, he accepts the only coaching job he can get, in McFarland as an assistant football coach. But even that doesn't work out. So after being relieved from that job, he somehow convinces the principal to let him begin a cross country team. Permission granted.
He is moved to this decision by seeing a bunch of the students run during gym class. You see, most of them are Mexican migrant workers kids, and they are not strangers to hard work, and to running to and from school most every day. Together they form this wonderful friendship, and this bond that brings them tighter as a team. But, there are large roadblocks along the way.
There is a huge social, racial, and socioeconomic element in play here, that really gives this a feeling of being very unique. Can White bring these kids together and make them be the best they can be? And can they change him to be a new man, and change the way he goes through life on and off the field. In short, this is a real nice story.
I have to admit, I was insanely skeptical about this movie from the word go. It just looked like too long of a stretch even for a sports fan like me to swallow this concept. But with all things being level, this is a great story, and that's where all good movies begin. In fact, I found this story to be far more compelling that even well done movies like Remember The Titans. I think it's because it tells a story that you have never really seen before buy a long shot.
Costner is good, solid and the supporting cast with Maria Bello, and others blends well throughout. But put all that aside, the star of this movie is the story. Granted this is a bit too long, and 15 minutes less would have been far more. But, stay around for the closing credits, as you will be astounded as to the end result of all of these runners lives, and Coach White too.
McFarland USA. Is this great? No...but this is a nice family movie, great story.