Film Review: McFarland, USA

Carlos Pratts and Kevin Costner

Disney has really carved out a genre for itself: the underdog sports story as cultural melting pot, complete with the Middle American white coach/scout/father figure whose preconceptions are overturned by scrappy kids who overcome every hurdle with heart and hard work. That guy was Jon Hamm in Million Dollar Arm and Josh Lucas in Glory Road. In McFarland, USA, also inspired by a true story, he’s a high-school football coach whose temper has landed him at an underfunded school in a largely Mexican-American town in the California desert. “Are we in Mexico?,” his daughter asks, as they drive past sad little homes of cracked stucco and sun-parched dirt yards. It gets a laugh, but makes a point: This is a Third World neighborhood within our borders. For that I give the film some credit. It gives a big-screen face to an American culture generally relegated to the margins of mainstream movies. Too bad it belabors as many stereotypes as it challenges.

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