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McFarland USA (Blu-ray Review)

McFarland-USAChannel your inner champion and brace yourself for this inspiring adventure based on a true story of underdogs triumphing over tremendous obstacles in McFarland USA on Disney Blu-ray Combo Pack, Disney Movies Anywhere and Digital HD June 2nd! This moving story features Kevin Costner(“Dances with Wolves,” “The Untouchables”), Maria Bello(“A History of Violence, “Prisoners”) Morgan Saylor (TV’s “Homeland”) and Diana Maria Riva (“NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Castle”) amongst others in this touching tale displaying the power of family, commitment and work ethic that transforms a cross-county team into champions. Bonus features include McFarland Reflections, deleted scenes, extended scenes and more! 

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Film 

McFarland, USA follows novice runners who strive to build a cross-country team under Coach Jim White in their predominantly Latino high school. Everyone has a lot to learn about each other, but when Coach realizes the boys’ exceptional running ability, things change. Beyond their talent, it’s the power of family, commitment to each other and work ethic that transform them into champions — helping them achieve their own American dream.

I don’t want to be overly harsh on McFarland USA.  And what comes in the way of a movie like this is my own self and having seen a ton of movies in my lifetime.  Also, this film is indeed based on a true story, so a lot of this is the filmmakers going on actual events and persons to tell this tale of cross country running high school exploits.

My problem is, I’ve seen this movie a million times over.  And, I’ve seen Disney do this same movie a million times over as well.  This is your typical underdog sports story in the vein of Remember The Titans.  That movie seems to be one that Disney has been keen on chasing its success since it was released.  They call it the “classic Disney sports movie” in the press materials, but its like the only thing Disney knows how to do.

Before Act I was even over I had created a checklist of things that “needed” to happen in this movie.  By the time the film ended, every box was checked out.  Down on his luck coach comes to lower class school.  Has to work with a different race and “hoodlums”.  Turns things around, makes the community believe.  Something extraneous happens that may question his continued presence there.  Yada Yada Yada.  Some people really dig this kind of thing and eat it up.  For me, I just couldn’t wait for the 2 hours and 9 minutes to conclude to where I anticipated them to go without knowing much of the real events.

While I’m dogging this film, I will say that its actually competently made behind the camera.  And on the technical side, I need to give it a lot of credit.  Pretty much all of the performances in this movie are flat, but the film still manages to move at a decent pace and never quite get one to sleep.  Kevin Costner seems old, tired and ready for a nap the entire film.  His disinterest even seems to carry over to the bonus materials too.  I don’t really follow him, so maybe that’s just how he is.

For families needing something other than a cartoon or “glorious spectacle” blockbuster to watch, this might be a good little substitute on a weekend movie night.  For big time movies fans, film buffs and the like, you’ve seen this movie a ton and are likely to get sort of bored with it.  But, like I said, I don’t know how much of that is the true story or how much is just the flat casting and boring script.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail:  As expected from a brand new Disney film brought to Blu-ray, McFarland USA looks absolutely terrific.  The film was shot with a glossy, polished aesthetic and is shine through on this transfer with a crisp, sharp image.  Detail is very high, pick up all the town’s dirt and dust.  You can make out every wrinkle and sweat stain on the cross country uniforms as well.  Letting, like the misspelled “Cougers” on the white hates looks astoundingly sharp and clean.

Depth:  There are some breathtaking mountainous shots in the film and showing the runners in accordance features some great dimensional work.  Needless to say, movement is very clean and free flowing.  Background detail is nice and clear as well.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty rich, and deep.  No real crushing witnessed and only the barest minimal detail may be lost in a moment or two.

Color Reproduction:  The film has an overall golden look to it.  The town of McFarland intentionally doesn’t fuel itself with a lot of color, but the school color of red looks nice and bold.  While colorful moments may not be readily abound, when it is time to step up to the plate and display a gorgeous palette, the film does succeed incredibly (ie: the birthday party scene).

Flesh Tones:  Skin has a warm touch to it, and holds that consistently throughout.  Every bit of detail from scars to wrinkles to stubble comes through in a mirror-like display of detail.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Hindi 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish, Hindi, Korean, Chinese x2, Bahasa, Malaysian

Dynamics:  McFarland sounds about as good as it looks.  There are some very underrated nuances in this mix.  For example, how lifelike, crisp and good the foley effect sounds of something like sneakers running on dirt trails are in the mix.  This is about cross country running, so its not in your face action, but the day-to-day life sounds and such sound pretty great in the mix.  The score and vocals are woven in with those sound effects in a very nice loose and balanced track.

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer underrated plays no bigger than it should be.  Doors shutting, engines humming and scoring beats all get a nice thump and boost from your LFE.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Everything depicted on the screen is accurately reflected in movement and volume placement by the from speakers.  The rear speakers feature some good ambiance and lowered score.  The rear does have its moments, like the party and the final track meets crowd for example.

Dialogue Reproduction: Loud, crisp and clean.

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Extras 

McFarland USA comes with a Digital Copy of the film.  Infuriatingly, this film barely has a pop up menu.  The pop up’s only options are “Continue” or “Main Menu”.  No ability to visibly change subtitles and audio from within the movie, you have to surf them on.  What in the DVD is this witchcraft, right?

McFarland Reflections (HD, 8:29) – Kevin Costner and the original McFarland cross country team talk about the actual events, their importance and this movie.

“Juntos” Music Video (HD, 3:25)

Inspiring McFarland (HD, 2:02) – A brief little EPK piece with the director, the real Jim White, Kevin Costner, some of the other actors just give a kind of set up of what the movie is about.

Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 8:10)

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Summary 

I’m sure for a lot of general movie watchers, McFarland USA will really work in spades.  I’d also say its solid all-ages family movie.  However, I’ve seen a movie or two in my life and I found myself pretty bored with it and the execution to be pretty flat.  The presentation on this Blu-ray is the furthest thing from flat though, as it boasts terrific video and audio.  There are some “okay” extras that give  tad more insight than the movie does.  For those who just can’t get enough of typical underdog sports-change the community type movies, then this is a no-brainer when it comes to purchase I suppose.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “McFarland USA (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    I feel like I’ve seen this movie before for some reason.