A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this family-friendly sports tale is based on the true story of Cathy Rush, who coached the basketball team of a tiny Catholic women's college near Philadelphia to national glory. There's nothing objectionable in this G-rated drama, but there are a couple of themes that may go over the head of very young viewers, like the mentions of feminism and marriage and college financing. But the actual story of the girls' practicing, becoming a cohesive team, and competing against area rivals should inspire kids to keep working hard to achieve their own athletic and personal goals, even if the odds don't seem in their favor.
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What's the story?
Former collegiate basketball player Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) takes a job building and coaching the basketball team of Immaculata, a tiny Catholic women's college near Philadelphia. As she begins to train the "Macs" for competition, Coach Rush receives invaluable help from a young nun, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton), although the college's head nun, Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn), is preoccupied with the college's dire finances. As the Macs go on a miraculous winning streak, they gain support from the administration and even Rush's husband, a professional NBA ref (David Boreanaz).
Is it any good?
Most sports movies are both inspirational and overly sentimental, and THE MIGHTY MACS is no exception on either count. In some ways, it's yet another example of the way that women in sports are relegated to the second string. If this story were about a pioneering men's team, chances are it would have had a major studio backing it, a considerable budget, and a period soundtrack filled with memorable tunes. Instead, Gugino has to carry the weight of the film accompanied by mostly unknown young actresses and a maudlin script of over-the-top pep talks.
But despite the constant and effusive "we're No. 1!" speeches, there's a definite charm and a powerful message to this movie that's good for girls to witness. What's more, it's refreshing to see nuns who aren't played for laughs or portrayed as unflinchingly stern instructors; instead, they're kind cheerleaders who genuinely care for the young women at their college. No, this isn't the equivalent of Hoosiers or Remember the Titans, but Gugino and her team are the kind of typically irresistible underdogs that you can't help but root for.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about women in sports. Why do you think there are more movies about men's teams than women's teams?
How far have women come since the early 1970s? How are women athletes more commonly accepted today?
Which characters in this movie are role models? How can you tell?
- In theaters: October 21, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2012
- Cast: Carla Gugino, Ellen Burstyn, Marley Shelton
- Director: Tim Chambers
- Studio: Freestyle Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: November 29, 2019
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