Throughout the 2000s, Disney has made a habit of tackling inspirational films based on true stories about underdog athletes and the coaches who motivated them to become winners. Most notably, releases like Cool Runnings, Remember the Titans, Miracle and, more recently, Million Dollar Arm have helped the studio carve out a specific niche that has largely paid off in solid box office takes and strong critical reception.
So, when it was announced that Kevin Costner had signed on to star as a high school cross-country coach in McFarland, USA, it was immediately apparent that the film would likely follow the same vein as similar projects Disney has released in recent years. The fact that Costner has plenty of experience both starring in poignant sports films (Field of Dreams, For the Love of the Game) and playing an advice-giving small-town father figure (Man of Steel) certainly bodes well for this new film.
Now, courtesy of Yahoo! Movies, Disney has released the first trailer for McFarland, USA, and the result is pretty much what fans of this particular sub-genre will expect. The film follows coach Jim White (Costner), who transformed a team of unlikely cross-country runners into state champions back in 1987, and this initial footage indicates that the movie - much like its predecessors - aims to strike the delicate balance between heartwarming melodrama and a lighthearted fish-out-of-water story.
Pushed back from a November 2014 release date, McFarland is directed by Niki Caro - the filmmaker behind such well-received, Oscar-nominated films as Whale Rider and North Country - and could therefore be a standout offering from this particular set of Disney releases. However, at this point, most moviegoers already know whether or not they are interested in this type of film.
While Disney has certainly been blatant in its efforts to cash in on the built-in audience films like McFarland, USA have, it's hard to argue with their natural audience appeal and the pretty consistent level of quality involved in these productions. Caro and Costner should be able to ground Lee's story and manage to infuse it with the necessary heart, humanity and humor fans expect.
By no means will McFarland, USA reinvent the wheel when it comes to films of this type, but at least based on this first look, it may prove itself a worthy addition. Having said that: are you excited for McFarland, USA, or is this one Disney inspirational sports drama too many? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
McFarland, USA hits theaters on February 20, 2015.
Source: Yahoo! Movies