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The Mighty Macs (2011)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/21/2012

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/20/2012

If I were to ask you what the most cliched sub-genre is, what would your answer be? (Besides adult movies, of course, but that's really outside the scope of our discussion here.) I think that the best answer must be the sports movie. Is any other kind of movie more formulaic than the sports movie? Especially those which deal with an underdog. If you've seen one of these movies, then you've seen them all. The underdog individual or team is introduced, we learn what obstacles they must overcome and/or who their foe is, and then we watch them try and achieve their goal. It's always the same. The only way in which one of these movies can be surprising if it introduces us to a sport which we usually don't see in film. This is the case with The Mighty Macs.

The Mighty Macs is set in 1971 and takes place at Immaculata College near Philadelphia. Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) arrives at the small all-girls Catholic school to become the new basketball coach. (As she was the only applicant.) She quickly learns that the job will be a challenge, as there's no gym and only one basketball. In addition, Cathy's husband, Ed (David Boreanaz), doesn't support her in working outside of the home. Cathy is able to put together a team and she finds a space in which to practice. Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton) shows interest in the team and is made assistant coach. As the season starts, and Cathy has to work to find a location for home games, the team struggles. However, Cathy perseveres and teaches the girls to value teamwork above all else. Can this little school make a dent on the national sports scene?

The Mighty Macs is based on a true story (and apparently only a few facts were altered or changed) and it brings two interesting storylines to the forefront. The first is the women's collegiate basketball angle. Have I ever seen a movie about women's collegiate basketball? Not that I can think of. Does this make the story any different from something like Hoosiers? As a matter of fact, it does. Being a new coach at a small college in any sport would be difficult, but Cathy is facing an incredible uphill battle. The administration, in the guise of Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn), really doesn't care what Cathy does, as long as she doesn't ask for any money. Not only does the team have to contend with old equipment and a sub-standard practice space, their tunic-like uniforms are from a by-gone era. In addition, the world at large has little interest in women's basketball and, as we learn, 1972 was the first year with an NCAA women's tournament, and only 16 teams were invited.

The movie also brings a message concerning gender roles in that era. Cathy's husband was an NBA referee, so one would think that he would be tickled at the fact that his wife got a job as a basketball coach. However, being 1971, women weren't supposed to work (despite the fact that Cathy was often home alone), and he doesn't approve of her choice. In fact, it takes him a long time to be proud of her accomplishment. The movie also sends a subtle message about how Cathy isn't respected by the nuns either. At a school which is run by women, an independent woman who is trying to make an impact must fight for everything that she wants.

Despite these interesting and unique qualities, The Mighty Macs still hits every sports movie cliche, especially those which deal with the classic underdog story. The film also suffers from some underwriting from Writer/Director Tim Chambers, as the players remain relatively anonymous throughout the film. (We learn that one is engaged and one has lied to her parents about being in college (?!), but that's about it.) Likewise, the Sister Sunday character doesn't have much depth, even though we learn he backstory. Still, Chamber is capable of wringing enough emotion out of the story to make the movie worth watching. Before watching The Mighty Macs, I'd never heard of the Immaculata Macs, but the movie does a pretty good job of telling the basics of this true story and there is just enough suspense and heart to make this an above average sports movie. It's not slam-dunk, but the basket counts.

The Mighty Macs never explains where Cathy gets her button budget on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, and the image is never overly bright or dark, even in the dank practice area. Some haloes are noticeable at times, but the picture never gets too soft. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are well-done, most notably during the basketball games, as the sound goes from side-to-side. The same goes for the subwoofer effects, as we get good crowd noise from the rear channels during the games.

The Mighty Macs DVD contains only a handful of extra features. The DVD contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. All three of these are brand-new scenes. One shows how Cathy's peers react to her getting a job, while another lets us see just how different rules surrounding male/female activities were back then. The third has nuns cheerleading, so the less said about it, the better. "The Making of The Mighty Macs" (24 minutes) is not only an overall view of the movie, but of the real-life story as well. The real Cathy Rush appears here, as do some players. They talk about their experiences, especially the challenges they faces. We get a nice recap of the team's history and championship run. From there, the piece explores the making of the movie. Writer/Producer/Director Tim Chambers shares his personal connection to the story and his ambition to complete the project. The characters are discussed and the primary actors talk about the film. We then learn how some of the real people appeared in the film. "The Mighty Macs ESPN Segment" (6 minutes) is a brief documentary which uses a lot of footage which was seen in the previous featurette.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long