Critic Reviews



Based on 32 critic reviews provided by
A feel-good movie that earns all those good feelings, McFarland, USA might be running on a predetermined track, but the heart it shows along the journey is what makes it a winner.
While the beats of the story are often stock, the picture benefits from sensitive direction by New Zealander Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) and from a most appealing performance by Kevin Costner.
Set in 1987, this inspirational Disney sports film (that’s a niche, but a growing one) hits all the schmaltzy, sappy notes you’d expect, but never falls to its knees under the burden.
McFarland is old-fashioned without being dull, pandering without feeling cloying or racist.
A rare studio entertainment featuring a largely Latino ensemble, yet necessarily fronted by a big-name draw like Costner, McFarland, USA feels at once mildly progressive and unavoidably retrograde.
There’s more to this movie than sweeping music and celebrating in slow motion. It all stems from Costner’s remarkable, taciturn performance as Coach White.
Village Voice
It works, kind of, despite its broadness, its obviousness, and its howlingly awful opening.
Of course, it would be even nicer to see this story from a student athlete’s point of view. Beyond the representation issue, it might allow the movie to eliminate its dull and unevenly developed scenes.
If there's a general air of emotional authenticity woven throughout all this garden-variety, faith-in-family hokum, it's in the racing scenes.
Director Niki Caro, whose 2005 film “North Country” gave creative life to another true story, doesn’t allow this one enough narrative twists; it starts off at point A and heads straight for point B, much like one of its many racing scenes.

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