A group of college-age girls learn to Believe in Themselves and Work as a Team and Keep Their Hands Up and all the other stuff kids learn in sports movies in The Mighty Macs, a movie that also features nuns.
Nuns are helpful in a movie because nuns always know how to bring the sass.
Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) is the wife of an NBA ref (David Boreanaz) but this is the 1970s and sisters are doin’ it for themselves. For Cathy, this means coaching college women’s basketball. Since her own college basketball career ended after her sophomore year, she doesn’t have a lot of coaching options and when she’s offered a job at nun-run, all-girls-school Immaculata College in Pennsylvania, she takes it, even though the pay is fairly crummy, the equipment and facilities are worse and her husband isn’t thrilled with the whole endeavor. No matter, Cathy pluckily believes her team can fight the odds and come together to score victories against bigger, better-funded college programs. Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn) is uninterested in Cathy’s enthusiasm for the team; she’s got her hands full trying to save the college, which is threatened with being sold. So Cathy, a flat basketball and a bunch of frumpy skirt-jumper uniforms are all she and the small group of girls who show up to join the team have to work with as they start the season.
Because it is required by law in movies like this, Cathy at first alienates some of the girls with her emphasis on running drills, teamwork and generally playing more like boys. But eventually, she gains an assistant coach (Marley Shelton), a nun questioning her vows, and the girls pull together and these underdogs (are there any other kind of dogs in sports movies?) start to win some games.
The girls are mostly sort of indistinguishable from each other with the exception of Trish Sharkey (Katie Hayek), whose family is poor, and Lizanne (Kim Blair), who really wants to get married. Their problems, and the wisps of problems we get from the other girls, are fairly low-impact, G-rated and dealt with in the most limited possible way. The whole movie feels like more of a rough outline of a sports movie than a finished product. It has the speeches, the moments of victory and defeat, the comic relief — often from the juxtaposition of a nun in full habit saying something aggressive and sporty. OK, I thought, good structure, now where’s the actual movie, with the characters and the dialogue that isn’t just auto-fill in the sports movie screenplay program? The Mighty Macs is all sports movie cliché and none of the things you add to that cliché to make the movie something more, to make the movie, say, The Blindside or Bad News Bears or, heck, Real Steel.
The Mighty Macs is cute and a nice little recruitment piece for Immaculata University (which is what the college, now coed, is called these days) but it neither breaks new sports-movie ground nor puts real substance into the familiar formula. C
Rated G. Directed by Tim Chambers with a screenplay by Tim Chambers (from a story by Chambers and Anthony Gargano), The Mighty Macs is an hour and 42 minutes long and is distributed by Freestyle.