Parents' Guide to

McFarland, USA

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Poignant story about Latino runners a winner for families.

Movie PG 2015 128 minutes
McFarland, USA Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 15 parent reviews

age 10+

What's this? ANOTHER underdog sports story?

Underdog films proliferate around sport stories and this is no exception. Underdog, fish out of water, and the sentimental feel goods that encourage just a tear or two...this film has all of that. And then of course Kevin Costner. Draw your own conclusions. I eventually enjoyed this film even though it glides over systemic issues that would help explain why the small town is so depressed, but you know...Disney doing what Disney does, mainly wallpapering over depictions of why things are the way that they are and focusing on how one singular person can make a difference against a few token odds.
1 person found this helpful.
age 10+

Fabulous film

Entertaining and full of themes and ideas. Very accessible for my two boys (11 and 9) as they love sport. Champion of the underdog, stereotyping, hard choices, fear, the power of your community and prayer.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
1 person found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (15):
Kids say (24):

This is a poignant, uplifting tale, even though there's a certain predictability in movies about sports underdogs. (You're not going to expect them to lose if someone has bothered to make a movie about them.) Some may quibble that this is another "white savior" movie, but it's firmly not. Coach White had never even coached cross country before creating the team at McFarland; he's winging it just as much as the boys, who really only know how to run fast at first -- with no notion of pacing or hill and speed work. The team changes and challenges the coach just as much as he guides and pushes them to look beyond the stereotypes of "pickers" and see what gifts hard work and discipline are -- not only in running, but in life. Costner is in fine form as a grumpy older coach unsure of what to make of his unfamiliar surroundings and his team full of boys who've been working fields since they were 10 or 11.

And the boys -- it's hard not to fall in love with the lot of them, especially Pratts' broody Thomas (who naturally falls for Coach White's daughter) and eternal optimist Danny Diaz, who never gives up, despite being easily 30 pounds heavier than his brothers and teammates. You just know that Danny is going to save the day -- why else would the filmmakers bother to show him huffing and puffing over "hills" (McFarland has no natural hills, so they run over covered mounds of almond husks)? But that doesn't mean you don't tear up when it finally happens. The best part of the movie, though, isn't just the sports: it's that the filmmakers don't portray the community as in need of the White family's generosity. To the contrary, it's the abuelitas and mamas who come to the rescue when Coach White flakes on his daughter's 15th birthday. The community puts on a touching quinceañera for her, making it clear that White -- whom the kids affectionately call Blanco -- is one of them. Yes, this is a familiar story -- most sports movies are -- but see for yourself what it means to be American in the Fruit Bowl of California, where running together and running fast lead a bunch of boys to a sense of accomplishment and a coach to a sense of home.

Movie Details

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