Hey, I'm all for sisterhood and everything, but when we talk about it, do we have to use lipstick metaphors? The Mighty Macs has its heart in the right place, but speaks the language of feminism and change peppered with lazy cliches, which lessens its impact. It ends up seesawing between inspiring and exhausting, which makes it feel more like a wrestling match than a movie about basketball.
Sports movies that celebrate the underdog always stir at least a little emotion, and this story has all the right elements for that flutter in your heart. In 1971, Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) is "a woman ahead of her time," to quote the filmmaker's website, and the all-female Immaculata College needs someone with that kind of spunk to perk up their basketball team. Sure enough, she challenges them with her crazy newfangled ways of coaching, and they discover just what their team is made of. The nuns even get inspired to throw some Sister Act-esque type of sassitude into their daily lives.
Although this movie is officially endorsed by Rudy Ruettinger, subject of the legendary sports movie Rudy, this movie doesn't even come close to the emotional impact that one has. Not that they're not trying--Coach Rush has plenty of things to say about trusting your teammates and following your dreams. She makes the girls do all of those unorthodox training drills that raise the eyebrows of all the nuns in the vicinity. Her radical feminism evidenced by her numerous pairs of platform shoes and directions to be aggressive "with a ponytail" manage to spark the ire of Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn). These are the plot points that should rally the audience, but here, they just feel commonplace. Carla Gugino in bell bottoms does not a great movie make.
My copy of the Hollywood Playbook (Sports Movie Edition) states that it is imperative for the main character to have something/someone standing in their way. We've already discussed Mother St. John, and I think Cathy's husband, NBA referee Ed Rush (David Boreanaz), is supposed to be the other one. The only reason I don't know is because their relationship is glossed over, and when he's standing at the games clapping, I assume that's a triumph of some kind? In the end it doesn't really matter, because the game segments of the film don't come off as a particularly big deal, either. They do a nice job of showing the progression that the girls make skill-wise, but somehow the technical execution of the games doesn't stir enough emotion to make the movie feel worth sitting through.
This is a good movie to check out if you have a huge problem with violence, sex, or innovation. Otherwise, there are plenty of other more interesting commentaries on sports, gender inequalities, and nuns (like The Natural, Norma Rae, Dead Man Walking).