Reviewed by: Julia Webster
|Featuring:||Carla Gugino … Cathy Rush
David Boreanaz … Ed Rush
Marley Shelton … Sister Sunday
Ellen Burstyn … Mother St. John
Lauren Bittner … Mary Margaret O’Malley
Jennifer Wiener … Nun
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John Chambers … executive producer
Pat Croce … executive producer
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|Distributor:||Ocean Avenue Entertainment, Quaker Media|
“She just wanted to make a difference. She wound up making history.”
Produced by Pat Croce, former NBA coach, sports commentator, and motivational speaker, and written and directed by relative unknown Tim Chambers, “The Mighty Macs” brings to life a true story based on the first team ever to win the national women’s college basketball championship.
In 1971, Immaculata College is a struggling Catholic girls’ college with a very small and inadequately trained basketball team. Enter newly-hired Cathy Rush (played with intensity and enthusiasm by Carla Gugino), a quirky, committed young coach with great desire and passion to create a winning team. What follows is the rebuilding of the basketball team, which may be the only hope of survival for the financially destitute college.
With no gym and virtually no equipment, Cathy begins to rebuild the basketball team. Her unorthodox methods drive away some of the players, but, in the end, draw the rest of the girls together. A young novice (Marley Shelton), who is questioning her calling to be a nun, becomes Cathy’s chief supporter and also the team’s assistant coach. The group builds slowly from a losing team with no followers to one that competes in the national championship to the cheers of many adoring fans.
Ellen Burstyn plays Mother St. John with the same dry-witted, eye-rolling style used by Rosalind Russell as Mother Superior in the film “The Trouble with Angels.” Chambers adds another homage to the 1966 classic near the end of “The Mighty Macs,” when the Sisters raise their skirts while cheering for the team and reveal they are all wearing high-top black Chuck Taylor gym shoes ala Mary Wickes’ Sister Clarrisa.
Peeks into the personal lives of the coaches, the teachers, the players and their families are interspersed within the main basketball theme and give an added dimension to the story. For example, the cramped, cluttered apartment shared by Cathy and her husband Ed (David Boreanaz), an NBA referee, paints a picture of the strain placed on their relationship by Cathy’s work with the team.
Other locations used are well-chosen and authentic, including views of the real Immaculata College (now Immaculata University—immaculata.edu), while the costumes and detailed set decorations also add to the 1970’s portrayal. Cathy’s extensive wardrobe does become distracting during the course of the film, as she changes clothes with every scene and her gorgeous outfits don’t seem to fit the character of a low-paid basketball coach.
“The Mighty Macs” presents its faith-based story very tastefully, including softly filmed backgrounds of crosses and other religious icons, as well as scenes of characters praying. It is worth mentioning that the film includes a few instances of one character lying to another. Though the lies mostly provide moments of comedy, and are what most would consider to be “white lies,” parents may find an opportunity to remind their children of the Ten Commandments and God’s law not to lie, even when it doesn’t appear to cause any harm.
Another reminder of the inspirational nature of the story includes the Bible verses displayed by the crowd attending the championship game. Hanging from the wall and held in the hands of fans, the signs contain references to Mark 9:23 (And Jesus said to him, “…All things are possible for one who believes.”) and to Matthew 17:20 (He said to them, “…For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”)
Before the Macs final game, during her locker room speech to the team, Cathy quotes the words of First Corinthians 9:24:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
As Cathy’s coaching and teaching had encouraged the team throughout the season, Paul’s words encourage the team to play their best as they strive for the championship.
While “The Mighty Macs” may follow the typical formula of “underdog makes good,” it is still a great family film, which all ages will enjoy.
(One final note: Be sure to watch for an appearance by real-life coach Cathy Rush as a bank teller.)
Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.