I had a crisis this weekend. Were my friend and I going to watch Chappie, a movie about a gang bangin’ robot or Kingsman, James Bond cousins versus Samuel Jackson’s bad guy character? Decisions. Decisions. Due to multiple reasons, we ended up ditching crime fighting for the inspirational McFarland, USA. I walked in kind of wanting to see this film, but expecting it to be a predictable mix of Blind Side, Coach Carter, Facing the Giants, and other inspirational “super good coach saves troublemaking, but talented athletes” story lines.
I walked out knowing that McFarland, USA might be my favorite sport’s movie behind Remember the Titans. Here’s why:
- Cross Country Running and not another Football or Basketball Sport’s Movie – Cross country running movies are a rarity. It was nice to see the inner workings of high school running on film. It brought back several beautiful memories of ole cross country running practices and competitions. When I was in high school, our team had T-shirts that read “Our sport is your sport’s punishment.” We believed we were beasts, warriors because of our tenacity and mental strength to run more than three miles every day. Even if you are not into the whole running mantra, you will agree with my assessment about these high school guys being amazing for running up literally mountains in scorching heat. During the movie, I promised myself that I would never complain about another neighborhood hill again.
- This is what cultural acceptance and awareness should look like. Granted this movie is not text book, but I think Coach White’s greatest act in the film is when he spends a day performing the activities of his fellow students. The second greatest act (or maybe this might be the first) is when he backs off. He basically says “I don’t really understand what you are going through completely, but I get that it is important. I respect that. Let’s see what we can do to help your running.” When the students and parents observe what he is doing, they respect him and accept him and his family. Soon it wasn’t about taking notes on differences. It was about building a community and friendships and sharing what each side had to offer (I know I am being vague here, but to share details would be to essentially spoil the movie). I wish more people would take that approach today.
- Great Underdog Story – Who doesn’t like an underdog story, a good underdog story? I promise this is a good one. Yes, it is a little predictable, but it still manages to tug at your heartstrings. Maybe it was the nostalgia talking, but my eyes were very watery toward the credits. I am glad I saw this little gem. It was a delightful surprise and one I think that will be on my top five list at the end of year, despite the deluge of big money, big name movies coming out later this year. Now excuse me. I am about to go lace up my running shoes.