‘The Mighty Macs’ is based on the heartfelt true story of an underdog women’s basketball team in the 1970s.
‘Macs’ centers on Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino, the film’s showcase), a motivated coach who turns the women’s basketball team at Immaculata College into three-time national champions. Hired on only a $450 season salary, Rush is given a worn basketball, an old activity room for practices and horrid dress uniforms for the girls to play in. Mother St. John (a stoic Ellen Burstyn) explains to Rush that “these activities exist to suppress the girls hormones,” since, of course, women can’t truly be athletes.
Rush is competitive by nature, and she brought that enthusiasm to her own college playing career. Her husband (David Boreanaz) is a referee for the NBA and doesn’t understand why his wife wants to work at all. But Rush is determined to prove her worth outside of her marriage.
Rush pushes her small team to embrace the more aggressive tactics found in men’s basketball, which isn’t an easy task considering they’re attending an all women’s Catholic college run by nuns. But she instills her passion for winning in her team.
Sister Sunday (scene-stealer Marley Shelton) is a nun struggling with her faith and jumps quickly at the offer of joining Rush as an assistant coach. With her help and the team’s growing desire to work hard, Rush’s efforts begin to pay off as the team finally starts to win.
Shelton produces some of the funniest scenes in the movie and it’s not just because she’s playing basketball in a nun outfit. The woman has true comedic talent and I hope we see more out of her besides her recent roles in ‘Elektra Luxx’ and ‘Scream 4.’
The film’s B-plot involves the school’s longtime budget problem. Mother St. John is trying to keep the college afloat while completely disregarding the growth of the basketball team and Coach Rush altogether. Academy Award winner Burstyn pulls off this role without looking completely unsympathetic which shows her talent.
The real treat is the relationship between all three of these women and how they transform the team and the school together.
Where ‘Macs’ fails is in forgetting to develop the student athletes who transformed college athletics. Clichés like “marriage isn’t everything” and “athletics will save the school” are a bit over done as well. There are some great messages throughout the movie, but for every 10 lines, there’s an inspirational one to follow, which can get a little repetitive.
If I had to choose between ‘Macs’ and ‘Moneyball’, I’d bet on ‘Moneyball’ as being the better sports related, feel-good movie of the year.