The Mighty Macs Review
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It’s been a long, hard road for The Mighty Macs. The G-rated basketball drama first made its debut at the 2009 Heartland Film Festival—and, since then, it’s been riding the bench, just waiting to get in the game. But now that it’s getting its big chance, you might find that, although the real-life team that inspired it may have been full of surprises, the film itself is just what you’d expect.

When Immaculata College—a tiny girls-only Catholic school in Pennsylvania—placed an ad for a new basketball coach in the fall of 1971, they attracted just one applicant: Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino). The new wife of NBA referee Ed Rush (David Boreanaz), Cathy was just looking for a way to pass the time—to keep her from becoming just another bored housewife. But she soon discovered that her new job posed some unexpected challenges.

The Mighty Macs follows Cathy as she battles the odds to put a team together. Not only is the school financially strapped and about to be shut down, but the gym was recently destroyed in a fire—so Cathy’s first task is to find a place for her team to play. And it doesn’t get any easier from there. In addition to the financial difficulties and facilities challenges, she also has to help her players with their personal problems while facing difficulties within her own marriage.

While it seems to promise a few new twists on the same old sports story, though, The Mighty Macs nevertheless fits neatly into the typical against-all-odds sports story formula. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The story is exciting and uplifting, and the cast is cute. Gugino is perfectly charming as the determined young coach, and Marley Shelton gives a surprising performance as the spunky assistant coach, Sister Sunday. And all of the pieces work together to make a perfectly enjoyable film.

The problem, then, is that The Mighty Macs could have been more than just another formulaic sports story. It touches on other, bigger, issues—like the role of women in the ‘70s—but the issues aren’t explored in any kind of depth. Meanwhile, the conflicts—whether with Cathy’s husband or with Ellen Burstyn’s Mother Superior—are barely conflicts at all. In the end, the obstacles just seem to fall away as everyone happily buys into the team and their championship dreams.

Had it taken a deeper look at those interesting societal issues—and had it developed the players and their stories a bit more—The Mighty Macs would have been a memorable sports drama. Instead, it simply goes through the motions to become just another sweet and fluffy sports story. It’s an entertaining film, but it’s about as distinctive as a nun’s habit.

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