Sports movies are tricky, whether you’re into the sport or not can affect how you see and interpret the movie. Those based on true events have even more hurdles to jump because if it is a well-known story, then you already know the outcome and that can make the movie seem a bit trivial. Personally, I am a huge fan of films about underdogs as I love someone to root for. Usually, I prefer watching a movie about a sports team to actually watch sports live on television — I don’t know why, but I’m quirky that way.
In the early 1970s, the women’s liberation movement was coming to its peak and that is when Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) — unwilling to settle down and be just a housewife just yet — said “No” to the apron and applied to be the head coach of the girls basketball team at the all-girls Catholic Immaculata University, a small school in Pennsylvania. Going in with something to prove to herself, and her husband Ed Rush (David Boreanaz), she chose to take a small group of girls (Katie Hayek, Kim Blair, Meghan Sabia, Kate Nowlin and Taylor Steel) and change their focus from marriage to athleticism.
With no resources, money or even a gym to practice in, Cathy continues to use her determination and focus to try and help these girls believe in themselves and become a team. With the school going bankrupt, the head of the college, Mother St. John’s (Ellen Burstyn), is focused on keeping the school open for as long as possible and continues to butt heads with Cathy when it come to the team needing new supplies and uniforms. When the team’s spirit is at its lowest, a young disheartened nun, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton), finds the team and becomes a knowledgeable addition to the coaching. With the faith of the school and community slowly building behind the Might Macs, the team must overcome many obstacles and learn to trust each other if they ever hope to face and defeat the well oiled machine that is the other much larger and older school teams.
New to directing is Tim Chambers — who also co-wrote the film — and although this film might have a similar feel to other sports movies and follow a similar formula, it has major heart and a great message. Being based off a true story, while still taking liberties with many of the characters, helps to make it less of a history lesson and more of a movie. It features many central themes vital to inspiring the viewer, such as faith, hope, determination and heart. Even though this film boasts female empowerment, this is not the central theme. It comes naturally to the story through the period in which the film is set and also its strong protagonists.
Gugino is out front as a strong leader with an unfaltering stubbornness, strength and intensity that accurately showcases the woman she is portraying. Without this strong mix of emotions and unabashed courage and heart we would not be rooting for her like we are. Shelton as Sister Sunday is a great mixture of hope and wry humor, even though this character is not rooted in any actual person — but a group of the team’s supporters — she is one of my favorites in the film. Her scenes with Gugino are some of the funniest and most energetic. Burstyn is the typical hard-nosed holy mother with a heart of gold beneath the surface.
The film has heart, wholesome morals and humor and is set to be a good film that you can take the entire family to go see. While parts of the storyline might seem overdone — like the unsupportive husband — the film leaves you feeling good and happy when you leave. Just because you might know the end result, doesn’t make watching the journey any less satisfactory.
“The Mighty Macs” is rated G and is in theaters now.
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