McFarland USA a Politically Incorrect Delight

By Robert Moeller Published on March 2, 2015

I saw (and enjoyed) McFarland USA this weekend. I am a sucker for a good old-fashioned “David vs. Goliath” or “kids from the wrong side of the tracks” sports flick, and this is certainly one that the whole family can enjoy. It is rated PG and has a runtime of 128 minutes.

The plot is simple: Kevin Costner’s character is a high school coach with a troubled past who finds himself cast off to a small farming town in central California with little to do but complain about the situation he put himself in. But this coach — the aptly named Dave White — has some fight left him in yet!

When he discovers that many of the Hispanic students in his high school possess uncanny levels of physical endurance and stamina, he decides to start a cross-country team.

The school is poor. The students are poor. Their coach is considered damaged goods. And rampant mistrust exists among the white and Latino communities in town.

If only some extracurricular activity could bring them together and serve as a metaphor for the obstacles our lead characters need to overcome!

Can you see where this one is going? Well, it goes there, but does so in an entertaining and thoughtful way. McFarland USA is a well-executed, standard tale of beating the odds, being inspired to achieve something you never thought possible, and the bonds of God, family and community that all cultures of good will hold dear.

Kevin Costner is delightful as Coach Dave White. Costner bought the rights to this “based on a true story” account of a coach and his cross-country team who won state championships in central California in the late 1980s. You can sense Costner’s passion for the story in his performance. He plays the part well and McFarland is largely devoid of the preachiness that many similar films seem unable to avoid.

Some will wish that it had surfaced the role of the coach’s Christian faith a bit more clearly, but the most intense criticisms of the film likely will come not from Christians but from secular progressives.

Sadly, we now find ourselves living in a culture where any movie that deals with racial issues is somehow morally obligated to offer a stinging critique of how horrible all white people have been to all people of different skin colors. If there is any hint that the white characters involved are not entirely to blame for racial tensions in a community, bloggers and pundits and critics begin trotting out the notion of the “White Savior Film” — a story in which a white protagonist “saves” black or brown people from their problems — as a way to discredit the movie and make themselves feel like clever cultural critics in the process.

The funny thing about this mind-numbing game of identity politics is that nearly everyone making the films in question are themselves progressive liberals. We can try to imagine how their purer and still more progressive film critic betters view them: alas, the filmmakers, being in the evil business of actually making a marketable product as part of an evil, profit-driven capitalist enterprise, have to put together films that will be palatable to the masses, who are not yet wholly correct politically. The progressives film critics meanwhile, freed of the evil profit motive, are free to be perfectly uncompromised in their consciousness raising political correctness  — sages leading the way.

Happily, the makers of McFarland, USA were unwilling to be browbeaten into toeing the progressive line. I, for one, am glad that Kevin Costner and Disney made this picture. I hope you’ll go see it.

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