At this point the inspirational coach drama has become as ritualistic as the Catholic mass, but it's also developed an admirable social agenda of breaking down racial divisions, which is exemplified by this heartwarming Disney release. Kevin Costner stars as high school coach Jim White, who launched a championship cross-country team in the poor, primarily Hispanic town of McFarland, California, in the late 80s. White is the usual good-hearted grump, and his disadvantaged runners brave the standard gauntlet of physical punishment and snooty competitors on their way to transformative victory. But along with the sports formula comes an emotionally resonant subplot in which the coach and his family are slowly integrated into the nonwhite community and learn to love their dead-end town. That's about as far from the reigning ethos of American athletics as you're likely to get in a Disney movie with Kevin Costner. Niki Caro (Whale Rider) directed, and Maria Bello gets the MVP award as the coach's strong-willed wife.
Director: Niki Caro
Producer: Gordon Gray, Mark Ciardi, Mario Iscovich and Mary Martin
Cast: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor, Michael Aguero, Sergio Avelar, Hector Duran, Rafael Martinez, Martha Higareda, Johnny Ortiz, Carlos Pratts, Ramiro Rodriguez, Danny Mora, Valente Rodriguez, Vanessa Martinez and Diana Riva