Sports Movie Review: The Mighty Macs

The Mighty Macs

The Mighty Macs is in theatres now, including the Plaza de Oro Theatre in Santa Barbara.

Based on a true story, The Mighty Macs tells the tale of the 1971-1972 women’s basketball team from Immaculata University. In this underdog film, coach Cathy Rush steps in to raise spirits and inspire change in the strict governing of this all girls Christian college.

The Mighty Macs may be compared to Hoosiers and Glory Road but lacks a certain dramatic quality to make the film truly as inspirational as those sports classics. This film has its moving moments but unfortunately fails to leave a lasting mark on the audience.

From the very beginning, newlyweds Cathy and Ed Rush do not appear to be very in sync with their desires for each other or their relationship. Ed dreams of a stay at home wife who is ready with food when he comes home and yet Cathy immediately takes on a job as a basketball coach to replace her short-lived career as a player.

Portrayed by Carla Gugino, Cathy seems immediately uncomfortable at Immaculata University because of her Baptist beliefs and it’s slightly unclear why she even takes on this position; but thank goodness she does.

Cathy ultimately becomes a necessary addition to a second-rate team that lacks uniforms, players, and a practice space. She coaches in a manner rather un-forceful but friendly, and still manages to motivate the players, nuns, and the entire town into supporting her and the team through the 99 minute film.

The real Cathy Rush is a legend in the sports world, and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In fact, despite differences in wording, the movie follows the true story almost exactly, down to the college name and character names. In fact, seven of the original members from the 1972 Immaculata basketball team are featured as nuns for a quick scene.



While the coach and players make the story move along, a nun named Sister Sunday makes the movie truly entertaining.

Sister Sunday, played by actress Marley Shelton, is a slightly spunky rebel nun who chooses to assist in coaching the basketball team. She goes so far as to drink in a bar, ditch her nun veil and discuss her past including her New York City boyfriend. Sister Sunday adds a much needed comedic presence that helps make up for certain gaps in other aspects of the film.

The Mighty Macs at times felt rushed, which creates holes in the story line. The brevity creates a problem when it becomes time for the scenes meant for drama or emotion and instead they appear rather anti-climactic.

In one particular scene a girl appears to be missing from classes and practice so coach Cathy goes to check on her. The girl is clearly crying over a break up; however, it’s hard to empathize or feel sympathy because of the lack of buildup.

Do not be too dissuaded by these negative details, however, because the story itself is exceptional and more than makes up for all else.

One storyline that is extraordinarily built is the religious aspect, yet it is built in a manner completely appropriate and non-persuasive. The religious storyline lies as merely a sub-tone and is primarily mentioned within jokes or to add personality to certain characters. At one point Cathy asks Sister Sunday when she knew that this was her calling, Sister Sunday replied that she had a teacher who “whispered something to me that I’ll never forget, ‘Jesus likes to dance.’ ”

The Mighty Macs has everything from comedy to drama with religion and sports mixed in, making this a G-rated fun movie for the whole family to enjoy. While it may not make the top 10 movies list, it was awarded Best Drama at the International Family Film Festival and is more than delightfully enjoyable. So cuddle up with family and friends and dare to be inspired by the remarkable true tale of Cathy Rush and the Mighty Macs.


Directed by Tim Chambers; Written by Tim Chambers and Anthony Gargano; Original Music by William Ross; Casting by Adrienne Stern; Editing by M. Scott Smith; Set Decoration by Elise G. Viola.

STARRING: Carla Gugino (Cathy Rush), David Boreanaz (Ed Rush), Marley Shelton (Sister Sunday), Ellen Burstyn (Mother St. John), Lauren Bittner (Mary Margaret O’Malley), Katie Hayek (Trish Sharkey), Meghan Sabia (Jen Galentino), Margaret Anne Florence (Rosemary Keenan)