Cheer on a true Cinderella team when The Mighty Macs hits theaters Friday!
It’s 1971: Richard Nixon is president; the equal rights movement is sweeping across America; Immaculata College, a tiny all-women’s Catholic institution near Philadelphia is looking for a basketball coach; Cathy Rush is restless.
Although Immaculata barely has a team and no home gym, Cathy is undeterred when offered the Immaculata head coaching job. She is married to rising NBA referee Ed Rush, who travels extensively, especially during the basketball season. The newly-married couple has no children yet, so Cathy, a former standout basketball player, is looking for something to keep her busy.
As one might expect, Cathy meets resistance. Initially, it comes from the Immaculata president Mother St. John who doesn’t share Cathy’s goals for the program. Mother sees the program as a diversion akin to a PE class; Cathy wants to coach the young women like athletes and win. Initially, her lone supporter is Sister Sunday, a young, enigmatic nun who is struggling with her vocation. Cathy also meets resistance from her players. None of them actually came to Immaculata to play basketball. As such, several don’t appreciate being coached, trained, drilled, and expected to perform like competitive athletes. Generally, they like their comfort zone, and they don’t get Cathy as a person.
Expect to encounter many positive themes in The Mighty Macs such as:
- Success at anything (basketball, marriage, religious vocation) requires discipline, sacrifice, and commitment.
- The story provides a cadre of positive and healthy female role models for young gals. You can watch this with your teenage daughter without either one of you blushing.
- Ecumenism – there is a surprising scene demonstrating the respect and unity that can be established between friends within different faith traditions.
- Empowerment of the human person. Some may criticize the film has having an overt feminist agenda that sets out to portray Cathy Rush as a radical feminist and Ed Rush as a chauvinist pig. We did not walk away with that impression. Rather, we found the film to be more about the equality of dreams.
- The marriage dynamic between Cathy and Ed is authentic. They’re a young, newly-married couple trying to figure out how to be married. Sometimes they get it right; sometimes they get it wrong. We appreciated the honest dialogue between Cathy and Ed — it’s a real one we have experienced as husband and wife as well.
- The movie includes a scene where Sister Sunday shares “her call” to enter religious life with Coach Rush. Nice opportunity to plant the seed of vocational discernment, especially with young women.
Without giving away too much of the plot, we would like to underscore several things.
- The Mighty Macs is NOT a Catholic movie, nor is it faith-based. Rather, it is largely the Cathy Rush story, which, against a Catholic backdrop, is merely faith-friendly. There is no call to action at the end of the film as you see in films such as Courageous or Fireproof. Leave any expectations of overt evangelization or Catholic moral teaching at home.
- The Mighty Macs IS family-friendly. The rarest of species: a G-rated live action film! The film stands to add to the recent and growing success of other family-orientated movies (e.g., Dolphin Tale and Soul Surfer).
- The production quality is excellent and the basketball action is first-rate. Writer/director/producer Tim Chambers wouldn’t let any actresses read for the players’ parts until he saw them play basketball first. It shows!
- The Sisters, who largely represent the Catholic faith element in the film, are portrayed positively for the most part. They appear to be real people who pray, have fun, sometimes struggle, and are fallible, but ultimately consecrate themselves in service to Jesus and His Church.
- Sister Sunday makes some dubious choices in her zeal to support the team and Cathy personally. That said, she’s a complex character who is clearly struggling with her vocation. Should this be altogether unexpected? Nuns are sinners just like the rest of us. Parents, consider these moments in the film as an opportunity to talk with your children about Sister Sunday’s choices and why they are not morally sound.
- The socio-cultural context is established very well. The hairstyles, clothes, basketball uniforms, automobiles, dialog, etc. make it difficult to forget you’ve been transported back it time 40 years. A clear understanding that American culture was quite a bit different at the time the story takes place than it is today is of the utmost importance.
The Mighty Macs stars Carla Gugino as Cathy Rush; David Boreanaz as her husband and NBA referee Ed Rush; Marley Shelton as Sister Sunday; Academy Award and Tony Award winner Ellen Burstyn as Mother St. John; and cameo appearances by both Cathy and Ed Rush as well as the entire starting five players from Immaculata’s 1972 women’s basketball team.
The Mighty Macs is not a perfect movie; there are some corny lines and a general lack of suspense. However, the performances are earnest and the characters are engaging. The journey is delightful even if the destination is certain. Overall, it has a lot going for it. If you want to gather the whole family for a couple of hours of uplifting family entertainment that will leave you talking about it when over, go see The Mighty Macs, in theaters October 21.
Check out our behind-the-scenes interview with Theresa Shank Grentz, a player from the ’72 Immaculata team, and the actress who portrays her, Katie Hayek.