McFarland, USA

Directed By: Niki Caro

Starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, and Morgan Saylor

After his turn as Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel a year and half ago, I was intrigued by the prospect of Kevin Costner getting active on the big screen again.  While he delivered a heartfelt performance as the DC Universe began to get its act together, every performance Costner has given since has been a play on his manly on-screen persona.  He gave us the blunt spy Kevin Costner in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  He gave us the tough single dad/assassin Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill.  He gave us the grumpy football GM Kevin Costner in Draft Day.  He even gave us the brooding single granddad Kevin Costner in Black or White.  None of these movies translated to greatness at the box office, but Kevin Costner is still playing on himself on the big screen.  It's crystal clear in this weekend's McFarland, USA.

By throwing a shoe in the face of a smart mouth player and injuring him, high school football coach Jim White (Costner) effectively ends his own career.  With his wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and his daughters, White moves to the rural town of McFarland.  It's a predominantly Hispanic area with few socioeconomic resources.  While his career as a football coach has effectively come to an end, he quickly notices the running ability of the students at his new school.  With the state of California having pre-approved funding for cross-country, White starts McFarland's first cross-country team, and begins to lay the foundation for a new career and a lasting legacy.  The star player on his team is a troubled boy named Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts).

McFarland, USA is a Disney movie with all the bells and whistles of a typical sports drama.  Director Niki Caro offers impressive athleticism, intense competition, and decent motivational speeches from Coach Costner.  There's plenty of heart and plenty of culture incorporated into this cross-country narrative.  Somehow, despite all the marks of a great sports drama, there's something missing from the film.  There's some spark that's just not there.  Simply put, McFarland, USA is formulaic, and it shows.

The performances are a bit underwhelming.  In the lead role of Jim "Blanco" White, Kevin Costner once again gives us the same Kevin Costner we've seen a million times.  This time, it's scrappy old coach Kevin Costner.  That being said, his shtick works in this particular movie to decent comedic effect.  His fellow co-stars bring quite a bit of energy to the film as well, especially the seven actors portraying the boys on Blanco's team.  They bring a certain youthful zest to McFarland.  I also want to commend Diana-Maria Riva for her hilarious performance as SeƱora Diaz.  She brings quite a bit of spice to the film.  The only exception is Maria Bello whose turn as Cheryl White is bland and underwhelming.

McFarland, USA gets the job done.  It's solidly entertaining.  It just doesn't rise to greatness.  McFarland, USA gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.