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Niki Caro
Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez
Writing Credits:
Chris Cleveland, Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson

A cross country coach in a small California town transforms a team of athletes into championship contenders.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Video Service 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 2.0
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional
Bahasa Indonesian
Supplements Subtitles:
Chinese Simplified
Chinese Traditional

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 6/2/2015

• “McFarland Reflections” Featurette
• “Inspiring McFarland” Featurette
• Six Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Music Video
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


McFarland USA [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 31, 2015)

I won’t say that Disney specializes in feel-good sports stories but… actually, I will say that. Of course, they don’t own that franchise, but with flicks like Miracle and Million Dollar Arm under their collective wing, the studio seems to embrace those topics more than others might.

Disney adds another in this line with 2015’s McFarland USA. Based on a true story, the film takes us to Idaho circa 1987 and introduces us to high school football coach Jim White (Kevin Costner). When he chastises his team for a poor performance, he accidentally injures an arrogant player.

Because of this, Jim loses his job and takes up new employment at a high school in McFarland, California. With his wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and daughters Julie (Morgan Saylor) and Jamie (Elsie Fisher) in tow, they struggle to fit within this heavily Latino community.

As he works with his students, Jim discovers potential talent. Jim recruits brothers David (Rafael Martinez), Damacio (Michael Aguero) and Danny Diaz (Rodrigo Ramirez) as well as Jose Cardenas (Johnny Ortiz), Victor Puentes (Sergio Avelar), Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran) and Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) for a cross-country running team. We follow their progress as well as how Jim’s family adapts to the setting and other personal areas.

Going into a movie like McFarland, the viewer can’t expect anything new or especially original. As I mentioned at the start, Disney cornered the market on the “plucky underdog sports movie”, and these tend to follow well-established paths, especially when they get into culture clash territory ala McFarland. As we watch the underrated athletes progress, we also see folks from different backgrounds bond.

So don’t expect McFarland to offer surprises, as it doesn’t. Virtually everything about the movie traces story and character routes that one can see coming from a mile away.

This means that the value of a film like McFarland comes from how well it executes its story and character areas. Does it create an involving experience with interesting personalities? Yeah, to a degree - McFarland offers just enough drama to keep us with it, but it doesn’t manage anything to make it stand out from its particular crowd.

Costner does fine as our lead, though he never breaks a sweat. Apparently Costner decided to make 2015 his year for movies about culture clash, as McFarland comes hot on the heels of Black or White, another film with racial overtones. Costner gives his character a good sense of strength and he helps ground a cast that focuses on younger, much less experienced actors, but he doesn’t offer work that requires him to leave his comfort zone.

The same goes for everything about McFarland. The story takes a well-trod path, as it alternates between sports issues and personal domains, with occasional intersection, of course. We see odds overcome and personal challenges confronted.

At times it feels like McFarland does little more than check off those boxes. While it’s hard for a movie like this to break out of the established mold, I would’ve liked McFarland to try harder. If any surprises show up in this film, I can’t find them.

That doesn’t make it a bad movie, of course, but the lack of ambition turns McFarland into a fairly average piece. The movie offers just enough drama to keep us with it, but doesn’t create something dynamic or memorable within its genre.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

McFarland USA appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an appealing presentation.

Sharpness seemed positive. A smidgen of softness cropped up in the occasional wider shot, but nothing prominent occurred. Instead, the movie looked accurate and concise the majority of the time. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to mar the presentation, and edge haloes remained absent. I also saw no print flaws.

The film’s hues tended toward yellow/amber to match the semi-arid California setting or blue/teal for other shots. These hues seemed uninspired but the disc reproduced them accurately. Blacks were dark and deep while shadows seemed clear and smooth. This turned in a good-looking image.

With its character focus, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack seemed decent but unmemorable. Sporting events opened up the mix a bit but most of the film emphasized low-key ambience. Though these moments created an acceptable sense of place, they didn’t turn this into a particularly involving mix.

At least audio quality satisfied. Speech was natural and distinctive, while effects came across as accurate and tight. Music showed nice range and dimensionality. Nothing here impressed, but the soundtrack suited the story.

A handful of extras appear here, and we start with McFarland Reflections. It goes for eight minutes, 29 seconds and offers comments from actor Kevin Costner and some who inspired the movie’s characters: Thomas Valles, Victor Puentes, David, Danny and Damacio Diaz, Jim White and Johnny Samaniego. They chat about their experiences and the adaptation into a film. I’m happy to get to see the actual men behind the story, but “Reflections” lacks real insight – it’s pretty much a puff piece.

During the two-minute, two-second Inspiring McFarland, we hear from Jim White, Kevin Costner, director Niki Caro, and actors Rafael Martinez and Carlos Pratts. This delivers a superficial promotional clip.

Six Deleted and Extended Scenes last a total of eight minutes, 10 seconds. In these, we see a bit more character exposition, especially in terms of secondary roles. The sequences add a little extra depth to those parts but we don’t find anything especially crucial here.

Next comes a Music Video for “Juntos” by Juanes. It mixes movie clips with lip-synch performance footage from the McFarland High School. The video seems mediocre.

The disc opens with ads for Inside Out and Aladdin. Sneak Peeks adds promos for Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Lost Missions. No trailer for McFarland shows up here.

As an entry in the “plucky underdog” sports genre, McFarland USA seems average. The movie comes across as professional and enjoyable, but it never quite manages to become inspiring or memorable. The Blu-ray provides good picture and audio but it lacks substantial supplements. McFarland delivers an average drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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