Sports movies like this -- a G-rated one that patterns itself in name after The Mighty Ducks and in plot beats after Rudy and every other underdog team-based story -- are essentially flesh-and-blood Mad Libs. The blanks get filled in with specific information, you pick whatever ball they're using and whether or not they're scoring touchdowns, points, runs or goals and bam, there's your movie.
Here -- based on a true story, of course -- it's the 1972 Immaculata College Women's Basketball team, coached by headstrong taskmaster Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino). She wears pants and platform shoes and she toughens up her ponytailed players via relentless practice and inspirational speechifying. Because it's a Catholic college, the other faculty are nuns, featuring Ellen Burstyn as the Mother Superior with whom Gugino -- fill in the verb-blank, come on, you can do it -- yes, that's right... BUTTS HEADS. At least until it goes full Sister Act and the nuns turn into cheerleaders and even Gugino's passive-aggressive husband David Boreanaz hops on board. And you knew all that was coming, too.
You won't mistake it for Raging Bull. Or for Hoosiers. Or even for A League of Their Own.
But so what? Thanks to its "G" rating, it's the perfect starter sports movie to show little girls before they enter middle school and begin hating their bodies and hit the invisible brick wall of that particular institution's tween agony. It also contains enough sweetness and warmth to distract you from the fact that you're kind of bored. And it's definitely more appropriate for its target audience than a movie about a teenage girl whose sole purpose in life is to become Mrs. Vampire or, even worse, someone whose worthiness to ascend to the status of adolescent royalty in charge of a fictitious nation lies in making sure that her curly hair is straightened, her thick eyebrows plucked and her glasses turned to contact lenses. While watching this one, I kept thinking, "Simplistic, yes, but at least it's not The Princess Diaries."
In other words, it's pointless to get too mad at the Mad Libs.