We’ve had a bevy of sports true story films over the years and in most all cases even if you know who won, they are all inspirational. This is the case of The Mighty Macs, a small women’s parochial college so obscure, that I had never heard of it before seeing the film. Well, would you believe they had a run at the title of the first Women’s National Collegiate Basketball Champion?
Did they win? Well even if you know that point it’s a good film, but not knowing it becomes even better. So don’t watch any trailers or go on line to find out or it may spoil the dramatic ending.
Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) had just graduated from a major college and was looking for somewhere she could hang her hat in a basketball gym. Sending out letters she gets a meeting with Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn) the head of a very small catholic college; her only reply. When she gets there she finds the place a mess, the original gym burned down and the auditorium now being used for a makeshift sports center. She accepts the position and is handed one tattered basketball. With a very small salary, no coaching experience and no budget Cathy sets out to put a competitive team together to play within the school’s collegiate division. When the impossible starts getting plausible, Cathy pushes for more help and support to keep her team going.
The Mighty Macs found my heart pounding wanting them to become winners and I was truly set up by the directing, acting and exciting storyline. Although I felt that Carla Gugino was miscast in the role (too refined and not athletic looking for the part), she gives her all to the role. Working with almost nothing and girls with very little ability, her character drives the girls to games in a van and works them constantly while hoping for a miracle.
But what makes this movie work is the cast of inspiring young ladies, Marley Shelton as Sister Sunday and some excellent direction by Tim Chambers in his directorial debut. Shelton does a great job as a nun turned rebel in order to help with the team. She brings sweetness to the role and slowly changes to a dynamo while being challenged by her desires to be holy.
Chambers takes careful aim at making sure that his audience gets entrenched in the drama around the impossible circumstances before moving into the first losing game followed by others. Building up the suspense with each proceeding winning game, it’s easy for a sports hound to get hooked, and I did. I even found myself silently rooting for the girls right up to the final buzzer.
Chamber’s biggest challenge however, comes with his choice of Gugino with her lack of athleticism looks and sweet personality in a role that just wasn’t made for her. But, he does work around it by putting a lot of the focus on each of the girls, Marley Shelton and the amazing Ellen Burstyn.
The Mighty Macs is rated G and fits the mold of a family film. The inspirational true story has a lot going for it showing that it doesn’t take a big college to complete your dream in life. Make sure you stay through the credits for some actual archive film footage of the original basketball team.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A slam-dunk true story. (B)