This is a movie I saw advertised and thought I’d like to go see it at the theatre, but it didn’t happen. But something the other day reminded me of this movie, and I decided to go ahead and get it. I’m really glad I did. This is one of those movies where you learn a lot about different cultures right along with the characters in the movie. The best part is, it’s based on a true story of a real place in California called McFarland, U.S.A., and the characters were not only real, but at the end you learn what happened to them.
At the beginning, Kevin Costner plays a high school football coach named Jim White working with wealthy, could-care-less, white boys who are more interested in partying than putting out a bit of effort on the field. White is giving them a pep talk at half-time and getting a lot of attitude in return. He loses his temper and tosses a cleated shoe at the locker beside the lippy captain and it bounces and cuts his face just below the eye. Next thing, White, his wife and two daughters, have loaded up the car and U-Haul, and are heading out of town.
Arriving in McFarland is quite the culture shock. By the time they’ve seen the house, eaten some enchiladas at the local diner, and started home, White is ready to leave to go anywhere else. Unfortunately, his temper is a pattern and this is the best he’s going to do. The kids in his P.E. classes are mostly Latino and work in the fields before and after school. He sees them running to school from the fields and thinks he can put together a track team that can get to the state finals, give the kids some pride in themselves, and possibly some pride in himself as well. First, he has to learn about their lives from their side of the street.
I used to date a guy who said the word “heartwarming” like it was something derogatory (explains why I “used” to date him), so that’s a word I shy away from. This is a great movie for the whole family. (It’s a Disney movie.) When the team goes to it’s first meet, all the other teams are pretty much white, country club types, and one of the runners says, “They probably can’t run unless a cop car is chasing them”. That really sets a fire under them. They lose that first race, mostly because Coach didn’t know about the hill at the end of the course, and they didn’t train for that. So then they do train for that — running over tarp-covered hills of pistachio nuts, picked by Latinos. These kids have a lot of issues that Jim eventually learns about at practice. He helps them, and slowly, the whole community starts to back the team — all the way to the state championships.
This story is one about success and perseverance, team work, and not being stuck in stereotypes. It’s about earning respect, and knowing what’s important in life. Some great acting from the young kids in this movie. It’s a movie I don’t mind owning because I know I’ll watch it again. * * * * *