Kevin Costner returns to comfortable territory in Disney’s latest sports drama, McFarland, as he plays a real life coach of a high school cross country team.
Like previous sports films from Disney, Mcfarland is another culture clash story based on true events. Costner plays Jim White, a football coach who has to move his family to one of the poorest cities in America, when he loses his job.
Largely made up of a Hispanic community, the aptly named ‘White’ family take a while to adjust to their new home, fearing gangbangers and spicy food. When Jim discovers the athletic potential of several students in school, however, his views about the community begin to change.
It’s standard, formulaic-fare which, even if you’ve never seen a sports film in your life, will still prove predictable.
Whereas I’ve enjoyed the studio’s previous sporting efforts – films like Remember the Titans, Cool Runnings and even last year’s Million Dollar Arm – for their undemanding, time passing qualities; but, the high levels of sanctimony and saccharine that the film so effortlessly achieves, makes it difficult to watch.
When the biggest attempt at humour comes from a scene in which Costner eats eight enchiladas – obviously – you know you’re in trouble. The stereotypes are, arguably, the least of the film’s problems though, with the only distinguishable message in the film, being “well, aren’t white people great”.
An all time low comes when Costner takes his team to see the ocean for the first time in their lives – a moment that may have been touching if it weren’t for its racist implications.
Kevin Costner is one slight, redeeming factor, but not even he can save the film from its own self-righteousness. On the surface, McFarland has all the syrupy sweetness of a Disney film, but if you look deeper, it’s actually a little bit nasty.
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