McFarland, USA

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McFarland, USA
File:McFarland, USA poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Niki Caro
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Christopher Cleveland
  • Bettina Gilois
  • Grant Thompson
Story by
  • Christopher Cleveland
  • Bettina Gilois
Music by Antônio Pinto
Cinematography Adam Arkapaw
Edited by David Coulson
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • February 20, 2015 (2015-02-20) (United States)
Running time
129 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million[2]
Box office $45.7 million[3]

McFarland, USA (also known as McFarland) is a 2015 American sports drama film directed by Niki Caro, produced by Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, written by Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson with music by Antônio Pinto and co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Mayhem Pictures. Based on the true story of a 1987 cross country team from a mainly Latino high school in McFarland, California, the film stars Kevin Costner as Jim White, the school's coach, who leads the team to win a state championship.[2] The film also stars Maria Bello and Morgan Saylor. The film was released on February 20, 2015, received positive reviews from critics, and grossed over $45 million. McFarland, USA was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 2, 2015 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.


In 1987, in Boise, football coach Jim White is chastising his players for an underwhelming half. Jim gets into a verbal altercation with one of the players, resulting in Jim throwing a football shoe with cleats at him. Following this incident, Jim is forced to move with his wife, Cheryl, and two daughters, Julie and Jamie. They settle down in McFarland, California, a predominantly Hispanic town. On their first night there, the family goes to a small restaurant and leaves to find a large gathering of Latinos in cars surrounding the place. One man makes suggestive motions toward Julie, prompting the family to leave faster.

White starts his new job as the life science/PE teacher and assistant football coach at school. During Jim's PE class, three boys, the Diaz brothers Danny, Damacio, and David, are forced by their mother to leave. During a later PE class, Jim sits on the bleachers and watches the boys run around the track with Jamie joining him. He comments that the boys, particularly Victor and Johnny (who got cut from the football team) move very fast. Jim goes to Principal Camillo to convince him to let him start a cross country team to compete in the upcoming state championships. Jim also enlists Johnny's help to recruit six more runners for the team, starting with Victor. Johnny asks the Diaz brothers, as well as two other students – Jose Cardenas and Thomas Valles. Thomas has gotten in trouble at school for being involved in altercations with other boys that teased his younger sister for getting pregnant, so Jim negotiates for him to join the team to avoid suspension. Although the boys are initially reluctant, they agree to join the team and run with Jim across the town, with Danny lagging behind as he is the heaviest of the team.

After some training, the team goes to their first meet in Palo Alto as boys from the other schools taunt the McFarland team. The race commences, and the McFarland team finishes in last place. Knowing the boys are disappointed, Jim takes full responsibility for the loss to not let them get discouraged.

Having been late for his daughter's birthday, Jim goes for a drive and sees Thomas sitting on a bridge over the road. He approaches him and notices a bruise on his eye, which Thomas says was his own fault because he tried to stop his father from hurting his hands so that he could keep working in the fields. Jim talks him down and tells him that he has good things ahead of him, encouraging him to continue doing something worthwhile. The Diaz brothers are pulled out of the team by their father, who wants them to keep working the fields. Jim goes to the brothers' home, and the next morning goes out to work on the fields with them to help them keep training for the team.

A fundraiser is hosted to purchase new running shoes for the team, Jim meets Javi and Lupe, two of the car enthusiasts he remembers from their first night, and is relieved to learn that they are not gang members.

The team goes up for another race to qualify for the championships. The team competes, and manages to just break into the top four teams, enough to qualify. Meanwhile, a coach from Palo Alto gives Jim a card, saying he is interested in an open full-time position.

The people in town learn that Julie just turned 15 and decide to help organize a quinceañera for her. They bring Cheryl, Julie, and Jamie to the salon while everyone sets up at home. Thomas gives her a bracelet that his grandmother made. Later, Javi and Lupe offer to take Julie out for her own "parade", with Thomas accompanying them. Not long after, their car is confronted by a group of punks that bother Javi. The authorities contact Jim, forcing him and Cheryl to drive to the scene and find Julie on the ground, with scrapes on her legs and shaking tearfully. Jim is angry over this, despite being assured that Julie was protected.

Jim meets with the Palo Alto district for the coaching position. The boys and his family learn about this, and are upset with him. He tells Cheryl that he could bring them a better life but Cheryl argues that it would be wrong for Jim to abandon the team and the friends they have made. The day arrives for the state championships. The whole community goes out to support the team. Jim sees Jose overexert himself at the start of the race and knows that he won't have anything left at the end of the race. He concludes that this will cost McFarland the race. To his surprise, Danny runs faster and picks up the slack.

The judges tally their scores together and McFarland comes in first, and the team and town celebrate McFarland's victory and Jim turns down the job offer from Palo Alto to remain in McFarland.



William Broyles Jr. was hired to write the screenplay for the film, which was in development since 2004.[8] Negotiations for Kevin Costner to star were finalized in July 2013.[9] Principal photography took place in Camarillo, California, and many of McFarland's residents were extras in the movie.[10][11]

Historical accuracy

In an interview, Jim White noted that while the movie was based on a true story, it wasn't a documentary. He acknowledged that not everything in the movie was factual, but that "it's still an enjoyable movie... it turned out fine." Some of the more notable differences included:[11]

  • Jim White had not been fired from numerous prior teaching jobs before starting at McFarland. He started teaching in the McFarland school district after graduating from Pepperdine University in 1964. During that time, McFarland was predominantly white demographically. White taught different subjects at numerous grade levels (fifth grade science, seventh and eighth grade woodshop, and PE) before starting his coaching career in 1980. White retired in 2003 after 23 years of coaching.
  • White did not create the cross-country team at the school, but instead restarted it after it had been dropped for a year. He rebuilt both the boys' and girls' cross-country teams, despite only the boys' team being featured in the film. Similarly, White took both the boys' and girls' teams to the California coast beach at Cayucos during the 1985 (not 1987) season.
  • Not all of the runners from the 1987 team were featured in the film. Director Niki Caro wanted to show more family in the movie, so Luis Partida, who was on the team, was replaced with David Diaz, Damacio and Danny's brother. David, however, had graduated the year before McFarland's first state title win.
  • Jim White and his wife Cheryl have three daughters, not two. The oldest daughter, Tami, does not appear in the film. Julie and Jami are also portrayed slightly younger than their real ages at the time of McFarland's first state title win in 1987 (all three were in college during that time).
  • Danny Diaz was not overweight as a kid. He was, however, the seventh person on the team and still instrumental to its 1987 state title win.


The film was previously slated for a November 21, 2014 release, under the title McFarland,[12] but was pushed back to February 20, 2015 and given a new title.[13][14] The film was released in Canada under its original title, McFarland.

Home media

McFarland, USA was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 2, 2015 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.


Box office

McFarland, USA grossed $44.5 million in North America and $1.2 million in other territories for a total gross of $45.7 million.

The film opened in North America on February 20, 2015 and earned $11 million in its opening weekend, finishing 4th at the box office.[15]

Critical reception

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes has reported a 80% approval rating, based on 119 reviews, with a rating average of 6.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Disney's inspirational sports drama formula might be old hat, but McFarland, USA proves it still works — especially with a talented director and eminently likable star in the mix."[16] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 60 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17] In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[15]

Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter gave a positive review, writing that "While the beats of the story are often stock, the picture benefits from sensitive direction by New Zealander Niki Caro and from a most appealing performance by Kevin Costner."[18] James Rocchi of The Wrap wrote "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."[19] A.O. Scott of The New York Times described the film favorably as "a slick and safe Disney version of a fascinating and complicated reality", and that "Mr. Costner, with his knack for grumpy understatement, manages both to dominate the film and to deflect attention from himself."[20]


McFarland, USA (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by Various artists
Released February 17, 2015
Length 46:31
Label Walt Disney
Antonio Pinto chronology
McFarland, USA
No. Title Artist(s) Length
1. "Juntos (Together)"   Juanes 3:18
2. "The Real McFarlands"   Antônio Pinto 2:39
3. "Me and Baby Brother"   War 3:26
4. "Let's Hit It Again"   Antônio Pinto 1:54
5. "Lord's Prayer"   Antônio Pinto 3:48
6. "Watermelon Man"   Mongo Santamaria 2:26
7. "Barbie Bike"   Antônio Pinto 1:45
8. "Flash Light"   Parliament 4:29
9. "Convoy to State"   Antônio Pinto 2:05
10. "Whittier Blvd."   Thee Midniters 2:28
11. "Beach"   Antônio Pinto 2:26
12. "This Ain't Golf"   Antônio Pinto 2:10
13. "That's Not Danny Diaz"   Antônio Pinto 7:52
14. "McFarland Theme"   Antônio Pinto 2:43
15. "América"   Los Tigres del Norte 3:02
Total length:

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 "McFarland, USA: Press Kit" (PDF). The Walt Disney Studios. Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kit, Borys (20 July 2013). "Kevin Costner in Talks to Star in Disney's Sports Drama 'McFarland'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "McFarland, USA". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 13, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Kroll, Justin (1 July 2013). "Kevin Costner Running with Disney's 'McFarland'". Variety. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Sneider, Jeff (21 August 2013). "Maria Bello Joins Kevin Costner in Disney's Sports Drama 'McFarland' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Yamato, Jen (14 October 2013). "'Homeland's Morgan Saylor Joins Disney Sports Drama 'McFarland'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Ford, Rebecca (17 September 2013). "'The Bridge' Star Joins Disney's Sports Drama 'McFarland'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Foreman, Liza (29 November 2012). "William Broyles Jr. Boards Disney's 'McFarland' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. White, James (1 July 2013). "Kevin Costner On For McFarland". Empire. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Disney movie starring Kevin Costner filming in Camarillo". Ventura County Star. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "History vs Hollywood: McFarland, USA". Retrieved 2015-05-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. McClintock, Pamela (18 September 2013). "Pixar's 'The Good Dinosaur' Pushed Back Nearly 18 Months After After Losing Director". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Busch, Anita (August 22, 2014). "Kevin Costner Movie 'McFarland' Moves Out Of 2014". Retrieved August 23, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. McNary, Dave (August 22, 2014). "Kevin Costner's Sports Drama 'McFarland USA' Pushed to 2015". Variety. Retrieved August 24, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 Ray Subers (February 22, 2015). "Weekend Report: Moviegoers Flee From 'Fifty Shades'". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 28, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "McFarland USA". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved February 11, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "McFarland USA Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 23, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Farber, Stephen (February 4, 2015). "'McFarland, USA': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 22, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Rocchi, James (February 4, 2015). "'McFarland, USA' Review: Kevin Costner Goes the Distance in This True-Life Sports Tale". The Wrap. Retrieved February 22, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Scott, A.O. (February 19, 2015). "Review: In 'McFarland, USA,' Kevin Costner Coaches Cross-Country Runners". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links