Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Mighty Macs

What do you get when you cross Hoosiers with Rudy? You get The Mighty Macs, the latest in a long line of inspirational sports stories. This film is certainly in the tradition of such classics as Remember the Titans, The Blind Side, We are Marshall, Miracle, and Glory Road. This is the kind of movie that Disney loves to make. It’s reported that Disney actually offered Tim Chambers, who is the film’s producer, director and writer, a distribution deal. The only stipulation was the film needed to be rated PG. Chambers stuck to his guns and refused to budge on the eventual G-rated film.

That may very well have been a tactical mistake. Make no doubt about it, The Mighty Macs is a solid movie and deserved a much larger audience. The film, which is about the 1972 Immaculata College women’s basketball team, was shot in 2007, and Chambers struggled for years to bring it to the big screen. Disney could have made a real difference. Chambers finally got his distribution deal last year through Freestyle Releasing. However due to a lack of advertising and promotion, the film earned only $1.8 million. As I said, The Mighty Macs is a solid movie with an inspirational and uplifting story and should have been a hit.

Some people may argue that The Mighty Macs is nothing more than the same old tired formula film that we’ve seen a million times over. Yes, you can make a case that it fits nicely into the mode that made Bad News Bears a success. Yes, it’s a feel-good, faces adversities and obstacles, and in the end our heros triumphs against all odds- type of movie. Like all good sports movies, the women’s basketball team at Immaculata College, comes out of nowhere to win the championship.

Following the tried and true sports formula, the players usually start out without a clue. Nobody knows which basket to but the ball in much less on how to dribble the ball. Inept would be an understatement. But everything changes with the arrival of a new coach, Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino), who painfully whips the girls into shape through her unique style of training and coaching in one season. Did I say miracle?

With little resources, tiny Immaculata College has to go up against much larger schools such as Penn State. Against all odds, Cathy starts to build a winning team. But, along the way, she faces resistance from Mother Superior St. John, played skillfully by Ellen Burnstyn, who is more concerned about whether the school can continue to operate due to financial issues than winning basketball games.

Also, Cathy’s husband, Ed (David Boreanaz), is not thrilled about his wife’s new career choice. He would rather have a stay-at-home wife who is more interested in domestic chores. However, Cathy does find an ally in assistant coach Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton), who is struggling with her calling as a nun. Will the girls win the national championship? Well, obviously there is no surprise to the outcome. The Mighty Macs is based on a true story. In 1972, Immaculata College won the First Women’s Basketball National Championship.

Cathy Rush is a well-known figure in women’s athletics and was elected to the National Hall of Fame in 2008.

Does The Mighty Macs break any new ground? As I have pointed out, there are plenty of sports movies; however, a film about women’s basketball is a rarity. Set in the early 1970s, the Might Macs explores the changing role of women in American society. It is certainly a film about equality and believing in yourself. Many of the girls in this film were told all of their lives what role they were to fulfill in society. It’s as if their lives had already been planned out. Cathy represented a new way of thinking. Or to put it in a different way, she represented female empowerment.

It’s a great message that you can succeed as a woman in life and be the person you were meant to be. I thoroughly enjoyed The Mighty Macs.

Working with a modest budget, Director Tim Chambers has created a film that’s just as good as any big budget studio movie. As for the acting, I found it to be honest and sincere. There’s no question, everyone was putting their best foot forward. The filmmakers have done a solid job of creating what Immaculata College must have looked like in the 1970s. That’s no small task. But what really makes this film work is the authentic re-creation of  games that took place during the first women’s national championship. It looks as good as any action I have ever seen in a sports movie.

I hope you take the time to find this film. It really is that good. The truth is. There’s nothing wrong with a formula movie as long as it’s a good formula. What’s wrong with something being inspiration and uplifting? We can all use a feel-good movie once in a while and especially something with heart and a message about hope and overcoming against all odds

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