McFarland USA

Rated 3.0

USAA high-school athletic coach (Kevin Costner) loses job after job because of his short fuse, eventually landing in McFarland, Calif., where he hatches a plan to build a cross-country track team from the farmworker kids at his new school. Based on the true story of Coach Jim White but heavily fictionalized (that business about the short fuse, for example), the movie bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Spare Parts, which came out earlier this year, with running taking the place of robotics but with the same result: Hispanic kids take on privileged teams from tonier, better-funded schools and win the gold (in McFarland's case, year after year). Clichés are rife in Chris Cleveland, Bettina Gilois and Grant Thompson's script, but director Niki Caro keeps them under control and draws strong performances all around. J.L.