First Hit: Predictable yet an engaging and inspirational film.
Jim White (Kevin Costner) is a coach that has strong beliefs and he wants all the kids he coaches to have the determination, dedication, and drive to excel in high school sports. When they don’t, he gets upset and is reactionary.
He lost his previous three jobs through his reactionary ways and now the only job he can get is in MacFarland, CA. MacFarland is a farming community in central California and inhabited by Latinos who survive by picking produce in the fields. Most the kids are picking next to their family members before and after school - it's a family affair.
White, his wife Cheryl (Maria Bello), and his daughters Julie and Jamie (Morgan Saylor and Elsie Fisher respectively) are out of place in this community. Initially they hate it but, as you know, they begin to love it as they learn the culture and people. White decides that these high school kids can run after watching them run to and from work. He then challenges them and attempts to recruit them for his newly formed cross-country team.
As you might expect he gets laughed at by the kids and the adults, but after recruiting the minimum 7 kids, this story becomes all inspiration. The story line is written in the history of MacFarland High School Cougars 9 all state titles in 14 years.
Costner is good as the guy who has lessons to learn and makes the right choices. Bello is very good as the supportive loving wife. Saylor and Fisher are both wonderful and effective as kids who learn to see the love in their community. Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, and Michael Aguero were all outstanding as the Cougars Cross-Country team. I loved their distinct personalities. Christopher Cleveland wrote this predictable and inspired script. Niki Caro captured the feel of the community effectively with her direction.
Overall: This is a feel good movie and it works for that reason.