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 basketball account of a small women’s parochial college so obscure that I had never heard of it before seeing the film.  Would you believe they had a run at the title for 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 (Gugino) and Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton ) set up a play in THE MIGHTY MACS

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 many letters she gets a meeting with Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn) the head of a very small catholic college…it was 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, she shows her character’s drive to make a team.

The 1972 Mighty Macs Team Photo

But what helps this movie work is the inspiring cast of young ladies who make up the team along with Marley Shelton as Sister Sunday a rogue among of a nun, 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.

I have to commend Tim Chambers for the filmmaking in his directorial debut.  Chambers takes careful aim at making sure that his audience gets entrenched in the drama involving impossible circumstances before moving into the first losing game followed by another downspin for Cathy Rush.  He then builds suspense with each proceeding winning game. It’s easy for a sports hound to get hooked on the desire to see the rag-tag team win, and I did. I even found myself silently rooting for the girls right up to the final buzzer.

Cathy Rush today

Chamber’s biggest challenge however, comes with his choice of Gugino as the dynamic Cathy Rush.  Not having a look of the athleticism needed for the role bothered me. Maybe it’s her sweet personality that lacked the emotion I was looking for in her character especially since she was going up against the impossible.  But Chambers seems to work around the shortcoming and puts focus on team problems, the games and the amazing performance by Ellen Burstyn as the parsimonious Mother St. John.

The film is rated G and fits the mold of a family film.  The Mighty Macs is an inspirational true story. 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)

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